The United States is prepared for "any contingency" when it comes to dealing with North Korea, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN.

"We're within an inch of war almost every day in that part of the world, and we just have to be very careful about what we say and what we do," Panetta said Wednesday on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

During a wide-ranging interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about Syria, the Secret Service and North Korea. The two were in Belgium for meetings to prepare for a NATO summit in Chicago next month.