— The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, says the U.S. is moving warships to track a rocket that North Korea expects to launch.
North Korea announced last week that it plans to try again to launch a long-range rocket soon, despite warnings from the United States and others for it not to do so.
The U.S. military says it plans to watch closely. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that a number of ships equipped with advanced ballistic missile systems are being relocated to track the rocket.
“A lot of this is about, number one, is so we understand what's going on," he said. "I'd say, second to that, is so that we understand, if they do violate the Security Council and launch a missile, what kind is it? What is it about? Where does it go? Who does it threaten? Where does the parts of it that don't go in, that don't go where they want it to go, where do they go? And what are the consequences of that?”
North Korea fired a rocket in April, but it broke apart over the sea shortly after liftoff.
Pyongyang says it is developing the technology for peaceful purposes and says it wants the rockets so it can launch satellites. However, the United States, Japan, South Korea and others in the region are concerned the North may intend to use the missiles to carry nuclear bombs.
Locklear also discussed the U.S. rebalance of forces to the Asia-Pacific region, a key part of the new defense strategy that President Barack Obama unveiled early this year. The plan calls for a majority of the U.S. Navy’s vessels to be moved to the Pacific, and a general shift in focus away from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific.
He said he believes the U.S. military can meet challenges in both regions.
“Yes, the Middle East ... has issues and has historically had issues that will require, I think, U.S. - obviously U.S. leadership, but also will require a certain level of military security over time and we will have to balance that as we look at the size and nature of our force structure and, you know, what we have, the assets that we have to be able to accomplish it. But I'm convinced that we can do both in the long run," he said.
The Obama administration says the rebalance of forces to the Pacific is not an effort to contain China and its expanding influence in the region.