The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff has told South Korea's president that the United States is prepared to use all of the military capabilities it possesses to defend against North Korea, a spokesman said.
General Joseph Dunford met in Seoul with South Korean military officials and President Moon Jae-in on August 14.
Dunford "stressed that North Korea's ballistic-missile and nuclear weapons programs threaten the entire global community," U.S. military spokesman Captain Darryn James said.
He said that Dunford "conveyed America's readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the U.S. homeland."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Moon told reporters that Dunford said the U.S. military options being prepared against North Korea would be for when diplomatic and economic sanctions failed.
Dunford is also to visit China and Japan this week, amid tension over an exchange of fiery warnings between North Korea and the United States.
He told reporters on August 13 that during his Asia trip he would discuss military options in the event that the "diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign" fails.
"We're all looking to get out of this situation without a war," Dunford said.
Moon called on August 14 for calm in the standoff with the North, saying there should never be another war on the peninsula.
"We cannot have a war on the Korean Peninsula ever again," Moon said. The 1950-53 conflict cost more than 1 million lives and perpetuated the division of the peninsula.
Tensions have increased since U.S. President Donald Trump, responding to the North's latest missile tests, warned that the United states would respond to further threats with "fire and fury like the world has never seen."
The North, in turn, threatened to fire missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, and Trump subsequently said that a U.S. military response was "locked and loaded" -- meaning ready to be put in place at any time.
The war of words has sparked global alarm, with world leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping urging calm on both sides. China is the North's most important ally and trade partner.
However, Beijing is increasingly frustrated with Pyongyang and joined in approving UN Security Council sanctions on August 5 over the North's nuclear program.
In line with the new sanctions, China on August 14 announced it will stop importing North Korean iron ore, coal, fish, and other goods in three weeks.
With tension high, two leading U.S. national security officials suggested on August 13 that a military confrontation with North Korea is not imminent but that the possibility of war still looms.
"We're not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago," H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, told ABC television’s This Week program.
McMaster said the United States continues to pursue "a very determined diplomatic effort," led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with new financial sanctions, to discourage North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from making further provocative moves.
Speaking on the Fox News Sunday program, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that “there's nothing imminent today" but that it was important to make clear to North Korea that U.S. patience has worn out.
Pompeo said that the United States wants North Korea to understand "that America is no longer going to have the strategic patience that it's had that has permitted him to continue to develop his weapons program. It's that straightforward."
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa