U.S. Preparing for Possible Further N. Korea Actions

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) -
A South Korean man looks north near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North Korea and South Korea in Paju, north of Seoul, Sunday. (REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won)
A South Korean man looks north near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North Korea and South Korea in Paju, north of Seoul, Sunday. (REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won)

U.S. military delays missile test

The top U.S. military officer said Sunday the Pentagon had bolstered its missile defenses and taken other steps because he “can’t take the chance” that North Korea won’t soon engage in some military action.

Heightened tensions with North Korea led the United States to postpone congressional testimony by the chief U.S. commander in South Korea and delay an intercontinental ballistic missile test from a West Coast base.

North Korea, after weeks of war threats and other efforts to punish South Korea and the U.S. for joint military drills, has told other nations that it will be unable to guarantee diplomats’ safety in the North’s capital beginning Wednesday.

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who just wrapped up a visit to Afghanistan, was asked in an Associated Press interview whether he foresees North Korea taking military action soon.

“No, but I can’t take the chance that it won’t,” he said, explaining why the Pentagon has strengthened missile defenses and made other decisions to combat the potential threat.

Dempsey said the U.S. has been preparing for further provocations, “considering the risk that they may choose to do something” on one of two nationally important anniversaries in April — the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and the creation of the North Korean army.

U.S. Gen. James Thurman, the commander of the 28,000 American troops in South Korea, will stay in Seoul as “a prudent measure,” Army Col. Amy Hannah said in an email Sunday to the AP. The Pentagon has postponed an intercontinental ballistic missile test set for the coming week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a senior defense official told the AP.

The official said Defense Secretary Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test until April because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the Korean crisis. Hagel made the decision Friday, the official said.

North Korean soldiers with military dogs take part in drills in an unknown location in this picture released by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, Sunday. (REUTERS/KCNA)
North Korean soldiers with military dogs take part in drills in an unknown location in this picture released by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, Sunday. (REUTERS/KCNA)

North Korea’s military said this past week that it was authorized to attack the U.S. using “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has moved two of the Navy’s missile-defense ships closer to the Korean peninsula, and a land-based system is being deployed to the Pacific territory of Guam later this month. The Pentagon last month announced longer-term plans to strengthen its U.S.-based missile defenses.

Citing North Korea’s suggestion that diplomats leave the country, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s national security director said the North may be planning a missile launch or another provocation around Wednesday, according to presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing.

In Washington, an adviser to President Barack Obama said “we wouldn’t be surprised if they did a test. They’ve done that in the past.”

Aide Dan Pfeiffer told Fox News Sunday that “the onus is on the North Koreans to do the right thing here,” adding that “they are the source of the problem and the only way to solve this is for them to take a step back.”

If they don’t, there will be consequences, Pfeiffer said.