Harris made the remark during an inaugural ceremony for Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, who is now in command of U.S. Forces Japan.
Harris, who recently met with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada regarding enhanced cooperation, described North Korea’s provocative actions, including missile and nuclear tests, as the most urgent threat, according to Asahi TV.
The U.S. Pacific Command chief also said that while there is room for debate regarding North Korea’s progress in nuclear warhead miniaturization, it is important to work with the countries concerned to combat the threats.
“[We] must consider every possible step to defend the U.S. homeland and defend our allies,” Harris said.
“That’s why I continue to emphasize trilateral cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States. And that’s why all nations must continue to rally the international community to loudly condemn North Korea’s aberrational behavior and be prepared to counter this challenge.”
In Seoul, military authorities told local news network MBC that they are on emergency standby in preparation for more provocations from Pyongyang.
South Korean officials said North Korea could engage in any number of provocations ranging from a test-firing of a midrange ballistic missile to the launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM.
The escalation of tensions on the peninsula and North Korea’s continued violations of United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions have prompted the United States, South Korea and Japan to seek tougher punishment.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power is to visit with officials in Tokyo and Seoul to coordinate efforts on international sanctions.
Power is also expected to visit the truce village of Panmunjom between the two Koreas on the anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party on Monday, to deliver a message condemning North Korea provocations, according to News 1.