WASHINGTON: North Korea's "grave threat" demands a "concerted effort" from the US and its international allies, a top American security official said today as he warned that the two countries were closer to war than they were a decade ago.
The US and North Korea have been locked in a war of words after Pyongyang threatened recently to fire ballistic missiles over Japan towards the US Pacific island of Guam.
Regional tensions have been soaring after US President Donald Trump warned that North Korea would "truly regret" any hostile action against America.
"I think we're not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago," said national security adviser Lt General H R McMaster.
"As Dr (Henry) Kissinger made clear in a great op-ed this weekend, this has been a problem that we've procrastinated on for a long period of time. And now it's coming to a head, where the threat from North Korea not only to the United States but the world is very, very clear," he said.
What's clear now is America's interests are aligned with all responsible nations, he said, adding that it is time for all nations, including China, Russia as well as US' close allies Japan and South Korea to work together toward a common goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
"It demands a concerted effort by the United States, but with our allies and with all responsible nations. This is what you're seeing the president do, is bring together all nations, ll nations to bear on this problem," McMaster told ABC News.
He said the US was prepared militarily to deal with North Korea if necessary.
"But we're taking all possible actions short of military action to resolve this very grave threat to the United States and the world," he said, adding that it includes a very, very determined diplomatic effort.
It also includes increasing sanctions, increasing pressure on the North Korea, to convince its leader Kim Jongun that this is not in his interest to continue the path of provocation and escalatory actions, he said.
"The United States military is locked and loaded every day, and especially those who are on the front lines of freedom, such as those that are stationed in South Korea and those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that are stationed in northeast Asia or rotate there," he said.
"We have tremendous military capabilities. We have a very high degree of readiness. So the US military is always locked and loaded. But the purpose of capable, ready forces is to preserve peace and prevent war. And George Washington said it.
The most effective way of preserving peace is to be prepared for war," McMaster said.