updated 10/24/2006 9:46:26 PM ET 2006-10-25T01:46:26

The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday that if war broke out with North Korea, American fighters would have to rely on "more brute force" because much of their high-tech bombing equipment is tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"You need precision intelligence to drop precision munitions," said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "And a lot of our precision intelligence assets are currently being used in the gulf region."

That, he said, would mean "more brute force, wherever we might have to go next, than it would be if we weren't already involved in the war we have going on in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Diplomats from the United States and other nations currently are confronting North Korea over its Oct. 9 nuclear test. Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Asia to rally support for enforcement of recently passed U.N. sanctions meant to punish the North for the test. North Korea has called the U.N. actions a declaration of war, and speculation has mounted that another test could come.

Pace told reporters that even with 200,000 military people in the Gulf region, the United States still has "2 million folks who can start protecting this nation anywhere else we need them to — tomorrow, if we need them to."

A potential war with North Korea or another country "would not be as clean as we would like it to be. But it would certainly be sure. And the outcome would not be in doubt," he said. "None of our potential enemies should miscalculate the capacity of this nation to generate overwhelming combat power, tomorrow, to defend our national interests."

Pace said such a war would look more like World War II or the Korean War, with "more collateral damage" than the precision bombing the United States conducted on Baghdad during the 2003 invasion.

"That's not predictive," Pace said. "I'm just saying that, on a scale, you're going to have to use more brute force to get the job done."

Pace also said North Korea's armed forces appeared "stable, meaning they haven't raised or lowered any particular parts of their readiness to cause any kind of alarm."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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