North Korean soldiers eye, photograph Chuck Hagel during his visit to DMZ

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, right, listens to U.S. Army Col. James Minnich, center, as North Korean soldiers photograph them through a window at a UN truce village building that sits on the border of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the military border separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, on Sept. 30, 2013. Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via AP
Hagel observes training at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex near the DMZ. Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via AP

Standing just steps from the heavily armed border with North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that Pyongyang is closely watching the international response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people.

And, with North Korean soldiers eyeing his every move, Hagel told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. has no plans to reduce its military presence in South Korea, despite the ongoing budget crisis. 

"There is no margin for error up here," Hagel said after a stop in one of the three small blue conference houses that sit on the border of North and South Korea. "This is probably the only place in the world that we have always a risk of confrontation. Where the two sides are looking clearly and directly at each other all the time."

Inside the house, Hagel stepped briefly onto the North Korean side. And when he moved back outside to speak to a crowd of reporters, North Korean soldiers stepped up to the border just alongside the building and watched from about 40 feet away. Read the full story.

A North Korean soldier, center, takes a photograph of Hagel through a window. Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via Reuters
North Korean soldiers stand on their side of the border, background, as South Korean soldiers face them during Hagel's visit to the DMZ. Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via AP
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, right, points out a location in North Korea to Hagel at Observation Point Ouellette during a tour of the DMZ. Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via AP