September 17, 2015 / 4:09 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. says more sanctions a possible response to any North Korea launch

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles during his visit to the construction site of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station near completion in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 14, 2015.KCNA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. defense official said on Thursday that additional sanctions were a possible response to any North Korea missile launch and the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said he favored deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.

Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear and Admiral Harry Harris made the comments at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee after North Korea said this week that it was readying a new satellite for launch, indicating it may fire an upgraded long-range ballistic missile.

Shear said the U.S. approach to North Korea was a combination of diplomacy and pressure.

"And as we go forward toward a possible North Korean missile launch for example, we're going to be engaging our six-party partners and we're going to be considering what extra pressure we might put on North Korea should they decide to conduct that missile launch," he said.

"Further sanctions would be one possibility," Shear said.

Harris said he considered North Korea the greatest threat he faced as Pacific commander and that it was important to strengthen South Korea's ballistic missile defense.

"I personally believe that THAAD is important on the peninsula as well," he said, referring to the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system.

Both China and Russia, which are among the five international powers that have sought to negotiate with North Korea to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons, have spoken against stationing the THAAD system in South Korea.

Washington and Seoul have said in the past they have not formally discussed the issue.

North Korea has been expected to launch an upgraded long-range ballistic missile, which would violate international sanctions, as it prepares to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party of Korea on Oct. 10.

Any such launch would violate international sanctions although the North insists it would be part of a space program for peaceful purposes.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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