U.S. forces in the Pacific are prepared to respond to any "Christmas gift" threatened by North Korea, Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said Friday.
"Korea is one of those places in the world where you always maintain very high levels of readiness," Milley said at a joint Pentagon briefing with Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The U.S. maintains close bonds with the militaries of South Korea and Japan, and the "tripartite alliance is rock solid" in its determination to deter North Korean aggression, Milley said.
Tensions on the peninsula are building once again following a series of short-range missile tests by North Korea. Dictator Kim Jong Un announced a Dec. 31 deadline for the U.S. to ease sanctions on the rogue nation in return for resumption of talks on denuclearization.
Earlier this month, the North's propaganda outlets said that an "important test" had been conducted at a missile engine site, raising concerns in South Korea that it was a prelude to the launch of a missile with intercontinental range.
A North Korean vice minister followed that up with a warning that "it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get."
Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, had sought to resume talks with North Korea on disarmament, but left Beijing for the U.S. Friday after two days of meetings with Chinese officials.
At the Pentagon briefing, Esper declined to comment on Biegun's mission, but said, "clearly, we think that a political solution is the best way forward to denuclearize the peninsula. I remain hopeful that we get the process started."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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