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Strategic command: U.S. 'ready for just about anything' from North Korea

Strategic command: U.S. 'ready for just about anything' from North Korea
Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the United States is fully ready to deter any threat that North Korea poses. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, April 23 (UPI) -- The United States is prepared to handle any military threat from North Korea, the leader of the U.S. Strategic Command said, adding the country remains dedicated to fulfilling its security promises to South Korea.

"We're very familiar with North Korea's capabilities, and I'm very confident in our ability to deter that," Adm. Charles Richard, commander of Stratcom, said during a press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday.

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"We are ready for just about anything North Korea can do," he said. "So I am fully confident that we're prepared for whatever they might decide to do."

Stratcom, headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb., is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear triad, which consists of strategic bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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Richard said a diplomatic solution to the growing threat posed by North Korea remains the preferred option.

"That situation is ripe for a diplomatic resolution," he said. "The best path to resolve issues with North Korea is using diplomacy first."

Washington's nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang have been stalled since a February 2019 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-U.S. President Donald Trump failed to produce an agreement.

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The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is conducting its North Korea policy review, which is expected to be completed soon.

In the meantime, North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear and missile programs. A report by a United Nations panel of experts earlier this month concluded that the isolated country has "increased its nuclear strike capability, as well as its ability to counter foreign missile defense systems while safeguarding itself with its own new air defense system."

North Korea has not conducted any nuclear or long-range missile tests since 2017, but it launched a pair of short-range ballistic missiles last month in violation of United Nations sanctions. Pyongyang also showed off a new ICBM at a military parade in October.

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Recent satellite image analysis by Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggested that North Korea may be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

"North Korea remains a security challenge to the United States and our allies," Richard wrote in a statement to the Senate armed services committee earlier this week.

"It continues conducting activities that threaten regional stability and defy international norms. North Korea has tested ICBMs designed to strike the entire continental United States and has a large inventory of theater ballistic missiles," he wrote.

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On Thursday, Richard stressed that the United States remains committed to its security alliance with South Korea.

"I will say that the United States -- and certainly my command -- are fully ready to honor our security commitments and alliance promises that we have made to South Korea," he said.

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