The top U.S. military officer said Sunday that the Pentagon had bolstered its missile defenses and taken other steps because he "can't take
the chance" that North Korea won't soon engage in some military action.
Heightened tensions with North Korea led the U.S. to postpone congressional testimony by the chief U.S. commander in South Korea and delay an intercontinental ballistic missile test from a West Coast base.
North Korea, after weeks of war threats and other efforts to punish South Korea and the United States for joint military drills, has told other nations that it will be unable to guarantee diplomats' safety in the North's capital beginning Wednesday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked in an Associated Press interview whether he foresees North Korea taking military action soon. "No, but I can't take the chance that it won't," he said, explaining why the Pentagon has strengthened missile defenses.
Dempsey said the U.S. has been preparing for further provocations, "considering the risk that they may choose to do something" on one of two nationally important anniversaries in April -- the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung and the creation of the North Korean army.
Gen. James Thurman, the commander of the 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, will stay in Seoul as "a prudent measure" rather than travel to Washington to appear this week before congressional committees, Army Col. Amy Hannah said.
Thurman has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense to excuse his absence until he can testify later.
The Pentagon has postponed an intercontinental ballistic missile test that was set for the coming week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a senior defense official told the AP on Saturday. The official said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the Korean crisis. Hagel made the decision Friday, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity
North Korea's military said this past week that it was authorized to attack the U.S. using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons.
North Korea also conducted a nuclear test in February and in December launched a long-range rocket that could potentially hit the continental U.S.
With pressure growing on China to get North Korea to step back from its warlike footing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Sunday that no one country should be allowed to upset world peace and added that China would work to reduce tensions over regional hotspots.
It wasn't clear whether Xi was referring to North Korea or the United States when he criticized unilateral acts that threaten stability.
A U-2 reconnaissance aircraft lands at the U.S. Air Force's Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Wednesday as the United States prepares for possible military action by North Korea.
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