The commander of American forces in South Korea is warning North Korea "all options" are open, if Pyongyang proceeds with apparent preparations for a long-range ballistic missile test. South Korea's president is renewing his call for dialogue with the North and appealing for calm.
General Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, responded Monday to signs of a possibly imminent North Korean missile test by calling on Pyongyang for restraint.
"Many, many countries around the world are watching North Korea, right now, to see if it will act responsibly or not," Sharp said. "We call on North Korea to stop provocations and act like a responsible country."
American and South Korean defense analysts say there is evidence North Korea is preparing a site for a test launch of its most advanced missile - capable, in theory, of reaching U.S. territory.
The United States deploys about 28,000 military personnel here in South Korea to help deter or defeat any repeat of the North's 1950 invasion of the South.
Sharp warned that the United States is fully capable of responding to any provocation from the North.
"We have all available options open to us," Sharp said. "That includes everything from diplomatic to economic sanctions to military options."
Despite recent sharp rhetoric from Pyongyang few, if any, analysts believe impoverished North Korea has the resources to sustain a major war effort against the South. What the North does have is hundreds of artillery and missile positions along the North-South border, capable of striking the South's territory within minutes.
Sharp warned that any potential conflict with the North would result in some degree of destruction in the South's capital, Seoul. However, he added that U.S. high-tech weaponry would quickly disable the North's ability to strike.
"Even as North Korea continues to improve their missile system, we outpace them and improve our ability to find and kill those systems as quickly as possible," Sharp said.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said, in a radio address Monday, he is ready to sit down with North Korea "at any time to resolve every issue." He urged South Koreans to be calm.
He says he is aware many are concerned about recent threats from the North but says South Koreans "do not need to worry too much."