WASHINGTON — North Korea would have no chance of defeating its southern neighbor and its allies in a conflict, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday, days after the peninsula appeared on the brink of armed conflict.
Last month's inter-Korean crisis was triggered by landmine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers on patrol along the border with the North. A deal to deescalate was reached last week.
"We need to make sure that North Koreans always understand that any provocation with them will be dealt with, and they stand no chance of defeating us and our allies in South Korea," Carter told troops in a televised broadcast.
Carter referred to the latest tensions as a "dust-up," and said they showed how quickly things could go awry.
"Korea is one of these places that is a tinder box," he said. "It's probably the single place in the world where war could erupt at the snap of our fingers."
The US military has played a key role on the Korean Peninsula since the end of the 1950-1953 war. Close to 30,000 US troops are permanently stationed in South Korea.
Seoul blamed Pyongyang for the latest crisis and responded to the landmine blasts by switching on banks of giant speakers and blasting propaganda messages into North Korea.
The North denied any involvement and threatened to attack the propaganda units as cross-border military tensions soared. Those broadcasts were stopped under the deal.