US public backs South Korea if attacked: Poll

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Most Americans say that the United States (US) should support ally South Korea if it is attacked by the North amid soaring tensions on the divided peninsula, a poll found on Thursday.

The Gallup poll said that 55 per cent would support US assistance to defend Seoul in an attack by Pyongyang, while 34 per cent disagreed and the rest did not know or did not have an opinion.

Opinion was divided on whether to expect a North Korean attack on the South in the next six months, although few Americans feared an assault by the communist state on the US mainland.

The US is bound by treaty to defend South Korea, although some conservative pundits in Seoul have questioned whether war-weary Washington is truly committed to offering a nuclear deterrent.

President Barack Obama's administration took the rare step last week of announcing a bomb exercise in South Korea of the nuclear-capable B-2 stealth jet, outraging North Korea, which has threatened a nuclear strike.

The survey found a stronger level of support for South Korea among older Americans, who are more likely to remember US involvement in the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.

The survey of 1,025 adult Americans was taken by telephone on Tuesday and Wednesday, and had a margin of error of four percentage points.