15 August, 2017
Gen. Dunford is in South Korea as part of a diplomatic visit to the peninsula and China, in an attempt to soothe tensions in the Pacific, spurred by North Korea's continued provocations via its nuclear weapons programs.
In the meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and other top officials Monday, Dunford "conveyed America's readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the USA homeland", said US military spokesman Capt. Darryn James.
North Korea, meanwhile, has threatened to lob four intermediate-range missiles into the waters near Guam, a tiny USA territory about 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said the Pentagon has developed military options should North Korea attempt to launch attacks against USA territories in the Pacific - namely US military sites in Guam - telling reporters that department leaders had a "military solution" for Pyongyang in place.
North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the United States territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called on his United States allies to help prevent a war, amid worsening tension over the North's nuclear threat.
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in on Monday declared there must be no war on the Korean peninsula and called on the North Korea to halt its threatening behaviour as tensions between Pyongyang and Washington heighten with both hinting at military action.
The tests are seen as a milestone in the North's quest to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States mainland. He said he also spoke to Korean leaders about his trip to China, "and the messages we would be delivering when we met with our Chinese counterparts".
It added: "We are watching every single thing in the United States".
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He added that any changes to the US posture in the region will be made in consultation with the Japanese government - who are also under threat from North Korea.
"The problem is that Kim Jong Un is nothing like his father", said Nam Seong-wook, professor of North Korea Studies at Korea University in Seoul.
On the possibility of the North's further provocation, Cheong remarked Kim Jong-un would likely conduct its sixth underground nuclear test or another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test around September 9, the day on which North Korea celebrates the anniversary of its founding in 1948.
"The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort", he said.
"So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn't have a function to serve in this particular case", he said. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" he wrote.
The upcoming military exercises by the US and South Korea occur every year.
Though the U.S. military is "always locked and loaded", the administration is now taking "all possible actions short of military action" to tackle the North Koran threats, including "a very determined diplomatic effort", the general said.
On Sunday, US National Security Adviser HR McMaster said he did not think the sides were closer to war than a week ago, while CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he saw no intelligence to suggest the sides were on the cusp of a nuclear war.