U.S. brushes aside concerns about potential impact of Middle East conflict on Korean Peninsula security

A White House official dismissed concerns Thursday that the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group could negatively affect the United States' security commitments to South Korea and other allies.

Since the eruption of the conflict sparked by Hamas' surprise attack last week, questions have lingered over whether Washington can simultaneously address multiple crises, including one in Ukraine.

John Kirby, National Security Council (NSC) coordinator for strategic communications, gave a simple answer: "We're not worried about our ability to do all those things."

"We are a big enough, strong enough nation and we've got global responsibilities to look after our national security interests anywhere and everywhere," he told a press briefing.

"We're still also supporting Ukraine and their fight against Russia. We're still doing an amazing amount of work in the Indo-Pacific to shore up our alliances and our partnerships and to try to increase stability, security and prosperity throughout the region," he added.

Asked to confirm a recent report on the suspected use of North Korean weapons by Hamas fighters, Kirby said that he does not have information to share on the issue.

Kirby also commented on the status of Iranian funds worth $6 billion, which were transferred to a Qatari bank under a recent prisoner swap deal between Washington and Tehran after having been frozen in South Korea under U.S. sanctions.

He highlighted America's oversight over the money, saying that "not a single dime" of it has been spent. His remarks came as Washington is looking into the possibility of Iran's culpability in the recent Hamas assault that has left at least 27 Americans dead and 14 accounted for.

"What I can tell you is none of it has been accessed. We are watching every dime ... We are watching it very closely," he said, noting the money is intended for humanitarian purposes. "We have oversight over what can be accessed and for what purposes."

He said that although the U.S. has not seen any specific evidence yet of Iran's direct involvement in last week's Hamas attack, Iran is complicit in a broad sense given its history of backing Hamas and other networks.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden told Iran to "be careful" amid speculation that countries or non-state actors against Israel could take advantage of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas to widen the fighting or sow further chaos in the wider Middle East.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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