North Korea Threat: How Will US React To North Korean Attack On Seoul?

By Philip Ross on April 9, 2013 1:55 PM EDT

japan
On Tuesday, members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces deploy PAC-3 missiles at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo. (Photo: Reuters)

Earlier today, North Korea announced over its state-run KCNA news agency that all foreigners and tourists in South Korea should leave the country because Pyongyang plans to initiate nuclear war with Seoul.  

"[North Korea] does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war," the agency stated in a bulletin that interrupted normal programming, Reuters reports. "It will be an all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war to be waged by [North Korea]."

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Just last week, North Korea warned foreign diplomats stationed within its own borders to leave Pyongyang, saying that the North Korean government could not guarantee their safety when war broke out.

According to Reuters, even in the midst of such belligerence, it's mostly business as usual in South Korea. No directives have been issued by any of the embassies in Seoul to their nationals, and airlines have not reported any changes in their schedules. Also, foreign schools were open without interruption.

Still, North Korea's behavior is unsettling. South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she's fed up with the "endless vicious cycle" of pugnacious rhetoric and hostile behavior from Pyongyang.

Japan is also on edge, and is preparing for provocation from Pyongyang. Earlier Tuesday, the Japanese Army set up interceptor missiles on the premises of the Defense Ministry in central Tokyo. The country's defense minister ordered the Japanese military to shoot down any missiles from North Korea that could threaten to hit Japanese territory, the New York Times reports.

Where is the U.S. in all of this, and if North Korea does attack South Korea - or the U.S., for that matter - how will the U.S. react?

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier Tuesday morning, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, said that Kim Jung Un's consolidation of power and his pursuit of nuclear weapons pose a clear danger to U.S. national security. He also said that, should North Korea launch missiles at any U.S. territory, the U.S. has the capability to deflect these attacks.

"I believe we have the ability to defend the homeland, Guam, Hawaii and defend our allies," he said.

Locklear also discussed the combined counter provocation plan - a South Korea-led, U.S.-supported contingency plan signed on March 22.

"I can't go into the details of it, but it's a very good effort," he said during his testimony before Congress on Tuesday. "It's an indication of a maturing of the alliance [with South Korea]."

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said earlier this month that the U.S. has many options at its disposal to counteract an attack from North Korea, and that the U.S. would defend itself as well as its allies from any provocations. Like Locklear, Little would also not give away any specifics of the plans, but said the U.S. military has "a full range of land- and sea-based capabilities to help respond to missile threats," NDTV reports.

"In the end, the best thing we as militaries can do is to preserve the peace ... so that diplomacy can be done," Locklear said Tuesday. "But it is a very dangerous situation."

According to Daily Mail, analysts don't think that North Korea's threats should be taken too seriously, but are rather a ploy to raise anxiety levels in Seoul. They believe a direct attack is not likely.

Read more:

North Korea Nuclear War: Are Foreign Diplomats In Danger?

North Korea Nuclear Threat: Crisis On Korean Peninsula 'Gone Too Far'

US Jets To South Korea: North Korea Says It Has Entered 'State Of War'

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