Esper on North Korea: US forces 'ready to fight tonight'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (File photo)

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has warned North Korea that the United States remained prepared to fight if necessary.

Speaking in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Esper said that Washington still regarded a political agreement on denuclearization as the best way, but noted that American forces were fully prepared to fight.

“We think the best path forward with regard to North Korea is a political agreement that denuclearizes the peninsula, we are on that path, we are going to remain on the path.”

“We would obviously urge Kim Jong-un and his leadership team to sit back down to negotiation table to do that," Espier noted.

“But that said, we remain from a military perspective ready to fight tonight,” he added.

"We have a full array of forces. They are ready. They're Air and Naval, Marine, Army forces. We have our South Korean partners with us, and then we have a broader set of allies and partners out there as well," he said. "So I'm confident in the readiness of our forces to deter North Korean bad behavior and should that fail, to fight and win as necessary."

The US and North Korea had been involved in bilateral diplomacy over the demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula since 2018 until recently.

Despite the sanctions imposed on it, Pyongyang had taken some unilateral steps to show its goodwill, including suspending test-launches of missiles.

But diplomacy snagged as Washington refused to reciprocate the unilateral steps. And Pyongyang set the end of 2019 as the deadline for the US to act.

As that deadline came and went, and the US failed to offer any sanctions relief, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday declared an end to the moratorium on its missile tests.

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