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Dunford on North Korea: 'Get Out of This Situation Without a War'

U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, talks with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo during their meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, talks with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo during their meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford met with South Korea's president Monday about easing tensions on the peninsula ahead of talks in China to pressure North Korea to back away from conflict.

"We're all looking to get out of this situation without a war," Dunford told reporters traveling with him to Osan Air Base in South Korea.

Dunford later met for nearly an hour at the presidential Blue House in Seoul with President Moon Jae-in, who was completing his first 100 days in office.

Also attending the meeting were South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and Army Chief Gen. Lee Sun-jin. The Defense Ministry later said Song will go to Washington on Aug. 30 for meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Moon renewed his call for dialogue with the North while Dunford stressed that the message "was the ironclad commitment to the alliance" of the U.S. and South Korea in common defense.

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"What I would like to see is [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un to commit to ceasing the development of nuclear weapons and ceasing the testing of ballistic missiles," Dunford said.

However, North Korea has yet to show signs of readiness to meet U.S. and South Korean demands.

Dunford's visit came a day ahead of North Korea's annual "Liberation Day" from Japanese occupation. In the past, the North has used calendar events for displays of military prowess.

South Korean news outlets have cited officials as saying the North could be preparing for another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launch. Two ICBM test launches in July by North Korea showed that Pyongyang has developed the ability to hit the U.S. mainland.

Last week, North Korea threatened to launch a salvo of four missiles that would splash down in waters within 25 miles of the U.S. territory of Guam.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded with a Tweet that said the country is "locked and loaded" for a conflict with North Korea.

At an earlier press briefing Monday with Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces-Korea, Dunford said, "What we would do in the event of an attack on Guam -- or missiles being launched toward Guam -- is a decision that will be made by the president of the United States, and he will make that in the context of our alliance."

"Our job -- General Brooks and I -- is to make sure our leadership has options available to them to properly respond," Dunford said.

Later Monday, he was traveling to Beijing for previously scheduled meetings with his Chinese counterparts on stability in the region.

Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with Trump and urged him to tone down the rhetoric.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Xi cautioned Trump to avoid "words and deeds" that would "exacerbate" the already-tense situation, to exercise restraint and to seek a political settlement.

China earlier this month voted in favor of United Nations resolutions tightening sanctions on North Korea and has also said that trade with North Korea would be significantly reduced in coming weeks.

Official Chinese news outlets have stated that China has warned the North's Kim that China will not back him if he launches an attack against the U.S. and its allies.

Also over the weekend, South Korea's Moon cleared the way for the deployment on a former golf course south of Seoul of a full battery of U.S Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile launchers.

The U.S. has in place two THAAD launchers and has been pressing for the installment of a full battery of six launchers, but South Korea had held up the deployment pending an environmental study.

South Korea announced Saturday that the study showed electromagnetic radiation and noise from the THAAD system is within existing regulations.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.