Panetta renewed the U.S. pledge to defend the South against aggression from Pyongyang.
“There is no question North Korea constitutes a threat to the U.S.,” Panetta said. “Make no mistake, the U.S. military is prepared to take all necessary steps” to repel attacks from the North.
Panetta said at his final press conference as the U.S. defense secretary that it was still unclear whether the underground nuclear explosion in the North was of a plutonium or uranium-based device. He also could not verify North Korean claims that the test was successful in miniaturizing the weapon for possible use on the warhead of a missile.
In response, Panetta said the U.S. would “increase our missile defenses to deal with the threat” and coordinate more closely with the South Koreans and the Japanese on joint defense.