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US Navy deploys ships before North Korean launch
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 6, 2012

Japan deploys destroyers for N. Korea rocket
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 6, 2012 - Japan on Thursday dispatched three destroyers to waters over which North Korea says its satellite-bearing rocket will travel.

Television footage showed three Aegis destroyers armed with SM-3 missile interceptors leaving their base in Sasebo, some 900 kilometres (560 miles) west of Tokyo.

They were reportedly bound for the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, a stretch of water known to Koreans as the East Sea.

Separately, a naval ship carrying PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) ballistic missiles arrived in the Okinawan island of Miyakojima on Thursday morning.

Television footage showed Self-Defence Force units unloading the missiles from the vessel at a harbour on the island, which lies on the expected flight path of the rocket.

In Tokyo, the defence ministry has deployed another PAC-3 battery at its headquarters as part of its effort to intercept anything headed towards the Japanese mainland.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet plans to hold a security meeting on Friday to issue an advance order to shoot down the rocket if it looks set to fall on Japanese territory, Jiji Press reported.

Immediate confirmation of the reports was not available.

The communist North announced on Saturday that it would launch a rocket between December 10 and 22 -- its second long-range rocket launch this year after a much-hyped but botched attempt in April.

Japan took similar defensive steps at the time.

It has reportedly notified neighbours including Japan of the trajectory of the planned launch.

Pyongyang insists its efforts are directed solely at the peaceful use of space, but many in the international community say the satellite launch is a poorly disguised missile test.

Washington and Seoul urged Pyongyang to scrap the launch while Tokyo postponed talks due this week with North Korea.

The United States has deployed naval ships equipped with ballistic missile defenses and is monitoring North Korea "very closely" ahead of an anticipated rocket launch, the head of US Pacific Command said Thursday.

It was "logical" that US naval ships in the region would be employed to track North Korea's launch and "to the degree that those those ships are capable of participating in ballistic missile defense, then we'll position them to be able to do that," Admiral Samuel Locklear told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

The US Navy took a similar approach "the last time they had (a launch)," Locklear said.

Two guided missile destroyers, the USS Benfold and the USS Fitzgerald, had been sent to the area ahead of the launch, CNN reported.

American naval ships had been sent to the region "so we understand if they do violate the UN Security Council (resolution) and launch a missile, what kind is it? What is it about? Where does it go? Who's threatened?" he said.

The admiral added that US forces would also be tracking any stray parts that might fall from the rocket.

Pyongyang has announced it will conduct between December 10 and 22 its second long-range rocket launch this year, after a much-hyped but failed attempt in April.

The North says it will be a purely "peaceful, scientific" mission aimed at placing an Earth observation satellite into orbit.

The United States and its allies insist the launches are disguised tests for an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Locklear said North Korea has steadily improved its missile technology but it was unclear if the test this month would be successful.

"I think they have progressively gained better technology over time through a number of methods, a number of years and decades.

"To the degree that they would be more successful than they were last time in such a short period of time and what they've done to correct it, I can't tell you."


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