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North Korea: US military braces for heightened readiness

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey says 'we’re in a period of prolonged provocation' with North Korea and its young dictator, Kim Jong-un. The US will continue holding military exercises with South Korea, Dempsey says.

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South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo (c.) shakes hands with his U. counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey (l.) as US Gen. James D. Thurman, the commander of US Forces Korea (r.) looks on upon Dempsey's arrival for their meeting at Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday.

Yonhap/AP

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Through weeks of high tension on the Korean Peninsula, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of North Korea’s young dictator, whom top US military officials describe as “very different” from his father.

Those differences are in turn driving the Pentagon to brace for a “heightened state of readiness” – a period of tension that may last for some time, according to the nation’s top military officer.

“We’re not into cyclical provocations any longer – we’re in a period of prolonged provocation,” says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

On the heels of a three-hour meeting with the commander of US forces in Korea Saturday en route to China, Dempsey says that the question now becomes, “How long is that sustainable?”

In Beijing this week, Dempsey is expected to press his Chinese counterparts to more robustly encourage North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to ratchet down his threats and think carefully about his next steps.

“China’s got some clear interest in stability on their southern flank,” Dempsey says. “We have to have that conversation, and I’m looking forward to it.” 

Pyongyang has signaled in recent days that it may be willing to come to the negotiating table if the US military, say, gives up annual joint military exercises with South Korea, among other conditions. 

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