"I think as we look at the missile portfolio North Korea has, we protect the homeland number one and make sure all our assets are available so we can provide protection if necessary." Thurman would not discuss what those protection options might be though "everything is on the table."
On Monday the U.S. Navy confirmed that it had sent the guided missile destroyer, USS John S McCain, to the waters off of South Korea. The ship carries SM-3 missiles capable of shooting down North Korean ballistic missiles. And today the Pentagon confirmed that an additional destroyer, the USS Decatur, was ordered to remain in the Pacific region.
Thurman explained that the ships' movements, as well as the public acknowledgement that long range American bombers had conducted training missions over South Korea, were about sending a message of deterrence to North Korea.
"Defending the Republic of Korea against aggression is all about deterrence. And I think we've got good deterrence," said Thurman. "I'm confident as the commander here in what we need to do should hostilities break out."
While North Korea's rhetoric has raised tensions Thurman believes the situation will "calm down. I'm confident it will. I'm optimistic about it."
He pointed to the practical reason that North Korea routinely uses its military to work the fields during the farming season "so that they can have a good harvest." SEE MORE: North Korea Puts Artillery Forces on High Alert, Threatens US