Published on Apr 1, 2013
U.S., South Korea make military moves
STORY HIGHLIGHTS A Pentagon spokesman warns against connecting ship deployment to recent tensions South Korea warns North of “strong response” to any attack U.S. deploys F-22s to South Korea as part of joint military exercises North Korea said it was entering a “state of war” with the South
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — The U.S. Navy is moving a warship and a sea-based radar platform closer to the North Korean coast in order to monitor that country’s military moves, including possible new missile launches, a Defense Department official said Monday.
The decision to move at least one ship, the destroyer USS John S. McCain, and the oil rig-like SBX-1 are the first of what may be other naval deployments, CNN has learned.
They follow weeks of belligerent rhetoric from North Korea, including threats to use nuclear weapons.
The United States and South Korea have gone ahead with joint military exercises despite the threats, and South Korea warned Monday that any provocative moves from North Korea would trigger a strong response “without any political considerations.”
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The United States has bolstered the exercises with shows of force that included overflights by nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers, massive Cold War-era B-52s and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
Read more: Threats of annihilation normal for South Koreans
“If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said at a meeting with senior defense and security officials, according to her office.
Her comments came after North Korea rattled off fresh volleys of bombastic rhetoric over the weekend, declaring that it had entered a “state of war” with the South and labeling the U.S. mainland a “boiled pumpkin,” vulnerable to attack.
The two Koreas are technically still at war after their conflict in the early 1950s ended in a truce not a peace treaty.
The secretive regime of Kim Jong Un has delivered a steady stream of verbal attacks against South Korea and the United States in recent weeks, including the threat of a nuclear strike.
It has lashed out at the U.S.-South Korean military drills currently under way and at the tougher U.N. sanctions that were slapped on it after its latest nuclear test in February.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman George Little warned against connecting the ship deployment to recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“I would urge everyone to disconnect this ship deployment from recent military exercises in South Korea. We have regular ship movements in the Asia-Pacific region and we use our ship movements for any number of purposes,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Analysts have expressed heavy skepticism that the North has the military capabilities to follow through on many of its melodramatic threats.
But concerns remain that it could carry out a localized attack on South Korea, as it did in November 2010 when it shelled Yeongpyeong Island, killing four people.
Displays of strength
The United States has sought to show its willingness to defend its South Korean ally by drawing attention to displays of its military strength during the drills taking place in South Korea.
Washington’s recent announcements concerning practice flights over South Korea by B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers, both of which can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons, have not been lost on Pyongyang, which has described them as acts of U.S. hostility.
Read more: N Korea readying rockets to aim at U.S. targets
There was no immediate reaction on North Korean state media Monday to the U.S. statement saying the stealth fighters, F-22 Raptors, were sent to the main U.S. Air Force Base in South Korea to support air drills in the annual Foal Eagle training exercises there.
U.S. and South Korean officials have been trying to strike a balance between acknowledging that the North’s rhetoric is cause for concern and at the same time playing down the severity of the threat.
Park said Monday that she was “viewing the threat from North Korea in a serious manner.”
But a senior U.S. Defense Department official said late last week that there were “no indications at this point that it’s anything more than warmongering rhetoric.”
And Little, the Pentagon spokesman said Monday that recent U.S. activities with South Korea “have been about alliance assurance, about ensuring them that we are there to protect them.”