Dunford says USA military options are for if sanctions fail - South Korea

In response to questions about the US response if North Korea were to launch missiles against Guam, Dunford asked reporters to not confuse military action with policy.

Gen. Dunford arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a two-day trip during which he is also scheduled to meet with South Korea's Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo and his South Korean counterpart Gen.

Tensions have skyrocketed since North Korea's army said it would complete a plan to fire missiles into the waters off the USA territory of Guam sometime this week.

In the meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and other top officials Monday, Dunford "conveyed America's readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the USA homeland", said US military spokesman Capt. Darryn James.

Hours before the warning, U.S. President Donald Trump said that if the DPRK continues threats against his country, Pyongyang would be met with "fire and fury".

Trump's recent threats followed a report that US intelligence indicates North Korea can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles.

The North in turn threatened to test-fire its missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam.

The top US military officer met with the South Korean president Monday about North Korea's nuclear threats. "What I would like to see is Kim Jong Un to commit to ceasing the development of nuclear weapons and ceasing the testing of ballistic missiles", Dunford said.

Any confrontation between the two will inevitably draw in South Korea, which faces thousands of North Korean troops and artillery guns across the heavily militarized border. "There must not be a war on the Korean Peninsula ever again", Moon said. "What we would do in the event of an attack on Guam - or missiles being launched towards Guam - is a decision that will ... be made by the president of the United States and he will make that in the context of our alliance", the chairman said. China's President Xi Jinping told Trump in a phone call that all sides should maintain restraint and avoid inflammatory comments.

Just over three months in office, South Korea's president is finding little room to maneuver between old enemy North Korea and increasing combativeness from long-time ally, the United States.

"So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn't have a function to serve in this particular case", he said.

Mr Moon also urged the North to "stop all provocations and hostile rhetoric immediately, instead of worsening the situation any further".

"The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort", Gen. Dunford told reporters in Seoul. It would then be up to leader Kim Jong-un as to when to fire the missiles-during the exercises, conceivably. There are 28,500 US service members on the peninsula and that number fluctuates from time to time due to exercises and new capabilities.

"We're all looking to get out of this situation without a war", Dunford said.

In an apparent warning to Pyongyang against military action that can be taken as a direct threat to the United States, an editorial in the Global Times called on the Chinese leadership to "make clear" that if it is Pyongyang who fires off missiles that "threaten USA soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral".