U.S. defense chief doubts N. Korea military action

BRUSSELS Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:00am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - North Korea is unlikely to launch military action in response to planned United Nations sanctions, although the possibility should not be completely dismissed, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday.

"I don't think that there has been a commensurate change in the posture of the North Korean military that would suggest an attempt to undertake operations," Gates told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

But he said Pyongyang was so unpredictable that it was probably "not wise" to dismiss out of hand North Korean threats of military action.

World powers have moved closer to punishing North Korea with new sanctions for carrying out a nuclear test in late May.

A draft U.N. Security Council resolution, written by the United States and endorsed by the four other permanent members plus Japan and South Korea, aims to hit the North's meager overseas finances and could be voted on by as early as Friday.

(Reporting by Andrew Gray; writing by Marcin Grajewski)

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