A top White House official said Saturday that the odds of war breaking out with Pyongyang are moving closer to reality with each day, remarks that came just ahead of joint U.S.-South Korean air force drills — including simulated attacks on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.

"I think it's increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem," White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster told the Reagan National Defense Forum in California when asked if North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday had increased the odds of conflict erupting on the Korean Peninsula.

"There are ways to address this problem short of armed conflict, but it is a race because he's getting closer and closer, and there's not much time left," McMaster said in reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. With each missile launch or nuclear test, Kim has seen his country's capabilities progress, McMaster added.