Locklear: U.S. prepared to defend against attack by North Korea

U.S. Pacific Command commander Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear III told Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. and South Korea are prepared to defend against an attack by North Korea should it occur.

Locklear said tensions on the Korean Peninsula were at their highest level in the 60 years since the Korean War. Locklear spoke before the Senate Armed Services Committee and expressed confidence in the abilities of U.S. and South Korean forces to intercept a North Korean ballistic missile.

Locklear recommended only intercepting a missile after confirming its destination and only in defense of the homeland or a U.S. ally.

"The best thing we as militaries can do is to preserve the peace, (and) to get it back to peace so diplomacy can work, and we would hope that could be done in North Korea," Locklear said. "But it is a very dangerous situation. It is something we have to watch, and it could be quite volatile."

North Korea was the main topic of conversation during a Senate hearing originally meant to focus on Pacom's fiscal 2014 budget request.

Locklear expressed concern about the sequestration and other budget shortfalls that could impact security measures in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We have been accepting additional risk in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region for some time," Locklear said. "Our rebalance strategy is in place, and we are making progress. Implementing and sustaining the strategic rebalance will require long-term, sustained commitment and resources."