US defence secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the combination of a recent missile test combined with nuclear explosions by North Korea represents a real threat to America.
"There is no question that North Korea constitutes a threat to the United States, to regional stability and to global security. The combination of a recent missile test combined with what apparently was this nuclear test, we believe, represents a real threat to the United States of America," Panetta told reporters at his last press conference.
"Make no mistake, the US military will take all necessary steps to meet our security commitments to the Republic of Korea and to our regional allies," he told Pentagon reporters.
Panetta said the actions of the North Korea regime are undermining regional security.
"The regime's actions are increasing the risks of proliferation and further isolating North Korea from the international community," he said.
The US, he said, is continuing to try to evaluate and assess whether or not the North Korean tests was in fact a nuclear test.
"We are still in the process of doing that. But there's no question... that North Korea has continued to enrich fuel," he said.
"They've conducted tests in the past. I think the combination of their continuing pursuit of not only a nuclear weapon but their continuing pursuit of developing intercontinental ballistic missile capability represents a real threat to the United States. They continue to be engaged in provocative behavior. They are isolating themselves from the rest of the world," he said.
"Russia, China almost the whole world has condemned what they have done. And as a result of that, it should be of great concern to the international community that they are continuing to develop their capabilities to threaten the security not only of South Korea but of the rest of the world. And for that reason, I think that we have to take steps to make very clear to them that that kind of behavior is unacceptable," said the defense secretary.
Earlier, Panetta spoke with his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-Jin to discuss immediate coordinated actions and continuing collaboration in the wake of North Korea's highly provocative nuclear test.
"Panetta reaffirmed the US commitment, including our extended deterrence commitment, to defend the ROK from aggression. Both leaders emphasised the strength of the US-ROK Alliance and its vital role in assuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Pentagon press secretary George Little said.
"The secretary discussed the importance of further efforts with the United Nations Security Council and regional partners in pursuing additional sanctions. The secretary also expressed appreciation for Minister Kim's leadership and partnership in strengthening the alliance during his time in office," Little said.