Tuesday, April 9, 2013
WASHINGTON, April 9 (RIA Novosti) – The United States is capable of shooting down a missile launched by North Korea but may opt not to depending on the threat presented by such an action, the top US military commander in the Pacific said Tuesday.
“If the missile was in defense of the homeland, I would certainly recommend that action. And if it was defense of our allies, I would recommend that action,” Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of US Pacific Command, told the US Senate’s armed services committee on Tuesday.
Locklear added that he would “not recommend” intercepting any missile launched by North Korea irrespective of its trajectory.
South Korean officials have said that North Korea might be planning to conduct a missile test launch as early as Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Japan said it has deployed missile defense systems around Tokyo anticipating a possible North Korean missile test.
Locklear’s testimony came amid a warning Tuesday from Pyongyang advising all foreigners to evacuate South Korea because the two nations are on the brink of a nuclear war.
White House spokesman Jay Carney called the warning “more unhelpful rhetoric that serves only to escalate tensions” on the Korean peninsula, while US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said comments from Pyongyang have not prompted the agency to issue a travel warning for South Korea.
Pyongyang's latest announcement comes after months of mounting tension, culminating in North Korea’s threat last week to attack South Korea and the United States.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last week ordered missile defense systems deployed to the western Pacific island of Guam, a US territory, following a pledge by North Korea to restart operations at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, including a uranium enrichment plant and a reactor.
“The continued advancement of the North's nuclear and missile programs, its conventional force posture, and its willingness to resort to asymmetric actions as a tool of coercive diplomacy creates an environment marked by the potential for miscalculation that, and controlled escalation, could result from another North Korean provocative action,” Locklear said.
Locklear said the United States is ready to defend itself and its allies against a possible North Korean missile attack.