(WASHINGTON) — With no sign that tensions on the Korean Peninsula are fading, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asserted on Wednesday that the U.S. has “every capacity to deal with any action North Korea will take to protect this country and the interests of this country and our allies.”
Following weeks of tough talk from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang appears on the verge of testing a mid-range missile that has an estimated range of just over 2,000 miles.
The missile could reach U.S. naval and air bases situated on Guam, where missile defense systems have been placed.
Hagel said the situation could be defused if Kim backs down from his bellicose rhetoric but if that fails to happen, the defense chief maintained that “our country is fully prepared to deal with any contingency.”
American military and civilian leaders have said that if North Korea decides to strike South Korea, an action many still consider unlikely, retaliation by Seoul and its U.S. allies will be swift and decisive.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who appeared with Hagel at the afternoon news briefing, said that the Pentagon would have to assume “the worst case” scenario because Pyongyang’s previous test of a three-stage missile proved successful.
Meanwhile, retired Marine Col. Steve Ganyard, an ABC News military consultant, says flying the Musudan missile over Japan would prove extremely provocative, adding, “The danger here is that Kim Jung-un has ramped up the tension to such a point that even the smallest action could provoke some sort of a larger fight, a war or some sort of significant military clash.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Rafael Romo and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Steve Visser and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
Camille Verdier, Steve Visser and Margot Haddad, CNN
Barbara Starr, CNN