Less than a week since North Korea carried out a nuclear test, the US and South Korea are still discussing military action against Pyongyang. The US military in South Korea has reportedly been put on its highest alert.
"The United States and South Korea are continuously and closely having discussions on additional deployment of strategic assets," Kim Min-seok, spokesman at the South Korean defense ministry, said on Monday, declining to give specifics.
Both US and South Korean media have speculated that Washington may utilize B-2 stealth bombers, F-22 stealth fighter jets and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which is currently based in Japan.
Seoul also said that from Tuesday, access to the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex, which lies just north of the heavily militarized border between North and South Korea, would be restricted to the "minimum necessary level."
'Violation' of international law
The speculated military action from the US and South Korea comes just days after Pyongyang claimed that it had successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test - its fourth nuclear trial in a decade.
The news from North Korea reignited fears in the international community over Pyongyang's efforts to build a warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile and capable of reaching the shores of the mainland US.
The US and Japan deemed North Korea's actions to be "yet another violation of its obligations and commitments under international law."
US military on 'highest alert'
In preparation of any further provocation from North Korea, US forces in South Korea were put on their highest level of alert on Monday, Reuters news agency reported. The US currently has about 28,500 troops based in South Korea.
General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US forces in South Korea, gave the order during a visit to the Osan Air Base, operated jointly by the US and South Korea, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of the inter-Korean border.
The announcement on Monday came just a day after the US flew a nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress over the very same Osan Air Base. Flanked by South Korean F-15 fighter jets and US F-16 planes, the US military described the fly-by as a demonstration of its "ironclad" commitment to its military alliance with South Korea, and a direct response to the North's nuclear test.
After South Korea recommenced blasting out anti-Pyongyang propaganda across its border on Friday, North Korea responded, warning that Seoul's actions were pushing the Korean Peninsula "toward the brink of war."
ksb/se (Reuters, AFP)