Aug. 14 (UPI) — The United States is fully prepared to defend South Korea and other Pacific allies from North Korea, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters at Combined Forces Command near Seoul on Monday.
“The message today was the ironclad commitment to the alliance,” Dunford said following a meeting with top South Korean defense officials.
Dunford downplayed any talk of preemptive action against North Korea, saying that the current defense posture was defensive in nature until ordered otherwise by the president.
“The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort,” he said.
“We are seeking peaceful resolution to the crisis right now.”
North Korean ballistic missile tests followed by threats to the strategic U.S. territory Guam has led to reassurances from military officials that they are capable of combating any North Korean action. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened massive retaliation if North Korea attacks U.S. forces or territory.
The United States maintains a large military presence in the Western Pacific that has gained renewed focus following North Korean belligerence and an increasingly assertive China.
There are currently 25,500 military personnel in South Korea, over 7,000 military and civilian personnel on Guam, and another 55,000 in Japan, primarily from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. All are in potential range of North Korean ballistic missile attacks.
The U.S. has 6 B-1 Lancer bombers on a rotation through Andersen Air Force Base, where they would likely play a large role in any potential conflict with North Korea. It is capable of supporting B-2 Spirit heavy stealth bombers and their special facilities as well.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group and two amphibious assault carriers are currently actively deployed in the Pacific as well as dozens of destroyers, cruisers, submarines, and support ships.
The 90th Fighter Squadron composed of F-22 Raptor stealth fighters was deployed to Australia in February for training exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force, and has been strengthening facilities and cooperation there.
Guam has had a Terminal High Altitude Air Defense battery in Guam since 2013 for ballistic missile defense.
The U.S. military has been building up its facilities in Guam to accommodate the stationing of 4,000 more Marines on Guam by 2021. Most of these units would be repositioned from South Korea and Japan.
Threats from North Korea could end up delaying some of those plans, as the Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller testified to Congress in May earlier this year.