US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for a "prudent" approach to North Korea following the death of the Stalinist state's leader Kim Jong-Il, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
In a phone conversation early Monday with his South Korean counterpart, Panetta and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin "agreed that it is critical to remain prudent with respect to all matters related our security posture there and pledged to keep one another informed in the coming days," press secretary George Little told reporters.
"The secretary conveyed to Minister Kim the strong commitment of the United States to peninsular stability and to our alliance," Little said.
"He made it clear that the United States stands with the Republic of Korea in this time of uncertainty."
Little suggested that both defense chiefs recognized the death of the North Korean leader was a pivotal moment filled with uncertainty.
"I think both the secretary and the minister understand that this is a delicate time and they need to closely monitor developments in North Korea and on the peninsula," he said.
Panetta, who just returned from a trip with stops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, was monitoring the situation from his home in Monterey, California.
The US military's top-ranking officer, General Martin Dempsey, and the commander of US forces in South Korea, General James Thurman, had also spoken to their counterparts in Seoul, Little said.
President Barack Obama called his close friend President Lee Myung-Bak of South Korea at midnight on the US east coast after the news emerged.
by Chris Lefkow
© 2011 AFP