US relations with North Korea may be "charged" but tensions in the standoff remain political rather than military, the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said Tuesday.
"While the political space is clearly very charged right now, we haven't seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces," General Joe Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"We watch that very carefully," Dunford said, in response to questions from Republican Senator John McCain about rising tensions with Pyongyang after US President Donald Trump mockingly labelled North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un "Little Rocket Man" and said his regime "won't be around much longer."
North Korea responded to the comments by accusing Washington of having declared war, a remark brushed aside by the US administration as "absurd."
Kim also lashed out personally at Trump, saying his regime would "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire."
Asia has been on tenterhooks as tensions soar, reaching new heights at the weekend when North Korea threatened to shoot down US bombers carrying out missions close to its airspace.
"We clearly have postured our forces to respond in an event of a provocation or a conflict. We also have taken all the proper measures to protect our allies -- the South Koreans, the Japanese -- the force, as well as the Americans in the area," Dunford said during the hearing.
"But what we haven't see is a military activity that would be reflective of the charged political environment that you are describing," he said.