A top US military commander said the US was confident it could intercept a North Korean missile but said it would only do so to defend itself and its allies in the region.

In remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of US Pacific Command, said the US was “ready” if North Korea attempted a strike and that it had the capability to thwart a ballistic missile from Pyongyang.

“I believe we have the ability to defend the homeland, Guam, Hawaii and defend our allies,” said Locklear.

Locklear, however, said he “would not recommend” knocking out any missile fired by North Korea and that the decision on whether to intercept the missile would be based on where it was aimed, reports The Associated Press.

This comes amid widespread speculation North Korea could be preparing a missile launch. Locklear said he was confident the US military would be able to detect quickly where any missile was headed, according to AFP.

“It doesn’t take long for us to determine where it’s going and where it’s going to land,” he said.

The US deployed missile defence systems across the region in addition to Japan and South Korea’s own.North Korea reportedly moved two Musudan missiles to its east coast believed to have the capability to reach Seoul, Tokyo and US bases in Guam, following a string of warlike rhetoric.