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US Military: North Korea's Planned Satellite Launch Is Act Of Provocation

U.S military leaders told the US Congress, Tuesday, that North Korea remains the greatest threat to peace in the Pacific region. They said the U.S. is ready to respond to any acts of provocation, including that country's planned launch of a communications satellite, which Washington and its allies in Asia say is a disguised long-range missile test.

General Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea testified before the U.S. House of Representatives' Armed Service Committee that North Korea's military, poses a threat to the region and the world. "North Korea remains the world's leading supplier of ballistic missiles and related technology and remains a major proliferator of conventional weapons as well," he said.

He said North Korea's planned satellite launch that the U.S. says is actually a long range missile test is a provocative act, intended to intimidate the U.S. and its allies.

U.S. Pacific Commander, Navy Admiral Timothy Keating told committee that the U.S. is prepared for a possible North Korean missile attack and other potential threats against the U.S. "Congressman, we are up to task, I believe. We are ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies and our national interests if the President so directs," he said.

Keating previously has said the United States has the ability to shoot down a North Korean missile if it threatens U.S. territory.

At the hearing the U.S. Pacific commander also said that China's confusing military behavior - recently harassing a U.S. Navy research vessel while cooperating with international forces to fight piracy - highlights the need for renewed military to military dialogue.

China suspended military contacts after a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan last October.

Also testifying was the outgoing head of the U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Bantz Craddock. He said Russia's resurging military and its incursion last year into Georgia has changed the geopolitical situation in Europe. "For years, 15, 16 years, the assumption made in our focus on Europe was that there would be no invasions of anyone's land borders but that turned upside down and that created angst, a sense of tension among many of the NATO nations," he said.

Craddock said the U.S. is trying to strike a balance between the security concerns of Russia and its NATO allies.