Washington:  The US will continue to expand its global missile shield in Asia and will provide cover to South Korea against a possible threat from North Korea, an official said, even as tensions continue to build in the Korean peninsula.

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, warned here on Wednesday after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan Jin that North Korean aggression or military provocation will not be tolerated.

"First of all, with regards to any provocations from the North (Korea), I think it's very clear that South Korea and the US have a strong cooperative relationship. When those provocations occur...we will work together to determine what kind of response should be provided if necessary," he was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The US will step up efforts to take care of the defences necessary to deal with the missile threat coming from North Korea and provide protection to South Korea through its global missile shield, the Russian news agency reported.

"We just deployed, or we just talked about deploying a TPY-2 radar system to Japan specifically in order to protect against that kind of missile threat, and we will continue to work with our friends in the region to further develop that kind of capability," Panetta added.

Earlier in the month the North Korean military said that the US mainland was within the strike range of its strategic missile forces.

In October 2006, North Korea became the world's eighth nuclear power, conducting an underground nuclear weapons test.

Although North Korea's nuclear programme and its development of long-range missile systems have been condemned by the international community, Pyongyang has vowed to continue its controversial missile development programme.

North Korea has already deployed a number of domestically-built missiles, including some capable of hitting the American territory of Guam in the Pacific, in addition to South Korea and Japan.


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