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U.S. Sends Ships Toward North Korea To Monitor Intercontinental Missile Launch, Nuclear Deterrence Exercise Held With South Korea

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 U.S. Pacific Command has moved ships into place to monitor a possible North Korean rocket launch, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III said yesterday. 

North Korean officials have threatened to launch a satellite-tipped rocket into space sometime this month. Locklear, Pacom’s commander, said such a move would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“We encourage the leadership in North Korea to consider what they are doing here and the implications on the overall security environment on the Korean Peninsula, as well as in Asia,” Locklear said during a Pentagon news conference.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III

The move would be similar to what the nation would do to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has been pursuing nuclear technology in defiance of the international community and has claimed to have carried out several tests of nuclear devices. Launching the rocket could show that North Korea has a delivery system for a nuclear weapon.

“And this … would be very destabilizing … not only to the region but to the international security environment,” Locklear said.

The possible rocket launch would counter what has been a series of positive steps North Korea has made.

“There have been … a number of signs that might lead you to believe that the new regime leadership is going to take a more … rational approach to how they deal with their own economy and how they deal with their own people, and how they deal internationally,” Locklear said. “There’s been a feeling that there might be some hope there.”

Locklear’s priority — like that of all U.S. commanders — is the defense of the United States. As such, he is watching North Korean preparations carefully and talking with friends and allies in the region.

The command has moved U.S. Navy ships in place to achieve optimal monitoring of the threatened launch. This is also important because Pacom has a homeland defense mission for Guam, the Marianas islands and other states in Oceana.

 

U.S. and South Korean defense and diplomatic experts will conduct a tabletop exercise examining nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula beginning tomorrow, a Pentagon official told reporters today.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will host 40 U.S. and South Korean officials for the extended deterrence exercise, which will look at deterrence methods in response to a nuclear threat scenario, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

This is the second exercise of its type. The first was at U.S. Strategic Command in 2011. It is held under the auspices of a bilateral committee formed in late 2010 to discuss alliance response in the event of a nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Little said.

Exercise participants will look at concepts, crisis decision-making and the requirements of employing extended deterrence assets in response to a nuclear threat scenario, he said.

“The exercise demonstrates that extended deterrence for the ROK is credible, capable, and enduring, by fostering the joint study of deterrence challenges and by identifying opportunities for cooperation and collaboration,” Little said.

The exercise supports the development of the tailored bilateral deterrence strategy against North Korean nuclear and weapons of mass destruction threats, and demonstrates the “unwavering” U.S. commitment to South Korea, said Army Maj. Cathy Wilkinson, a Pentagon Press Office spokesperson. The idea, she said, is to maintain credible and effective deterrence on the Korean Peninsula.

The exercise has nothing to do with current tensions created by North Korea attempting to launch a satellite, Wilkinson said.

Any North Korean missile launch is a provocative act that runs counter to United Nations Security Council resolutions, she said. The resolutions require Pyongyang to stop all ballistic missile programs and to reestablish a moratorium on missile launches, Wilkinson said.

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