(multimedia) Brussels, Belgium (CNN) — The United States is prepared for “any contingency” when it comes to dealing with North Korea, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN.
“We’re within an inch of war almost every day in that part of the world, and we just have to be very careful about what we say and what we do,” Panetta said Wednesday on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
During a wide-ranging interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about Syria, the Secret Service and North Korea. The two were in Belgium for meetings to prepare for a NATO summit in Chicago next month.
Panetta’s assessment of North Korea followed last week’s launch by Pyongyang of a long-range rocket. Despite the failure of the launch — with the rocket breaking apart 81 seconds after liftoff, it drew condemnation from the United States and countries in the region.
When asked whether the threat posed by North Korea kept him awake at night, Panetta said: “Unfortunately these days, there’s a hell of a lot that keeps me awake. But that’s one that tops the list.”