In an interview Monday, Navy Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry B. Harris said North Korea is a threat, and China is making neighbors nervous with its programs in the South China Sea. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- Navy Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry B. Harris said the "greatest" threat the United States faces in the Pacific is North Korea.
In an interview with TIME magazine, Harris said an "unpredictable leader" in Pyongyang is "poised...to attack our allies in South Korea and Japan."
Without mentioning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by name, Harris said, "He is on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally. He kills people around him who disagree with him, and that's something we should always keep in mind."
Harris' remarks referred to the likely execution of Hyon Yong Chol, North Korea's defense minister.
Harris, who will be officially appointed to the top post of the U.S. Pacific Command on May 27, will oversee a naval operation that employs 360,000 military and civilian personnel, reported South Korean news agency Yonhap.
TIME reported he is to be responsible for all military operations in an area that spans California, the Indian Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to Antarctica.
In previous statements, Harris has said China's construction of artificial land through the pumping of sand onto live coral reefs has created 1.5 square miles of artificial landmass, and that Beijing's program was "inconsistent" with international law.
On Monday, Harris said China has unilaterally declared an "air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea" by "parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast."
China's actions are making "neighbors nervous," Harris said. "It increases tensions in the region, and I think they are destabilizing for peace in the region."