A senior U.S. military commander says American and South Korean forces are prepared to counter any attack from North Korea. General Walter Sharp is urging North Korea's leaders to end provocative acts.
General Sharp, the commander of U.S. military forces in South Korea, says he is certain he can defend against any threat from communist North Korea.
"The threat as far as on the high end is, of course, the fact that North Korea has so many forces located very close to the demilitarized zone to South Korea," he said. "So we have to be prepared for that type of quick attack and I am absolutely confident that we are and that we would be victorious if there was any attack along those lines."
North and South Korea face off across the world's most heavily fortified border.
The United States, South Korea's top ally, has nearly 30,000 troops stationed in the country as a deterrent.
North Korea devotes much of the country's scarce resources to its large military force.
In recent months, Pyongyang has violated United Nations resolutions by launching missiles and testing a nuclear weapon.
General Sharp, who spoke by video conference from New York, says American and South Korean forces are ready if any missiles are launched towards targets in the South.
"They have a large number of shorter range missiles of which some they demonstrated recently," he said. "We are obviously concerned and call upon North Korea to stop those provocative acts. But from a South Korean and U.S. military perspective for the defense of the Republic of Korea we are prepared for those and we will work very hard to be able to intercept those if they were ever launched."
North Korea's nuclear test came against the backdrop of uncertainty about the country's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, and who might succeed him.
Mr. Kim suffered a stroke last year, which analysts say prompted him to prepare a transfer of power to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be about 26-years-old.
Analysts say there are serious questions about whether the younger Kim will be able to bring stability to competing factions in the North.
General Sharp says the world is united in efforts to convince Pyongyang to end the country's nuclear weapons program.
"All the governments around the world are hoping and pushing for Kim Jung Il to change his provocations that he has done in the past, to move towards denuclearization as he promised at one time and to take a new path where North Korea can emerge as a nation that takes care of its people and does not continue to threaten the world," he said.
North Korea has pulled out of international talks designed to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.