WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy is moving a sea-based radar platform closer to North Korea to track possible missile launches, a Pentagon official said Monday, in the latest step meant to deter the North and reassure South Korea and Japan that the U.S. is committed to their defense.
The sea-based X-band radar, a self-propelled system resembling an oil rig, is heading toward the Korean peninsula from Pearl Harbor, the official said. The USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer capable of shooting down ballistic missiles, also is being sent to the region, another Defense Department official said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss ship movements.
On Sunday, the Pentagon sent two F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Osan Air Base in South Korea from Japan.
The moves come amid heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula as the North has issued nearly daily threats over recently imposed U.N. sanctions and joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that the regime calls “an unpardonable and heinous provocation and an open challenge.”
The Pentagon’s decision to send only two fighters appeared to reflect a delicate balance, seeking to demonstrate American resolve without provoking a confrontation with North Korea. Last week, the U.S. military flew B-2 Spirit stealth aircraft to carry out dummy bombing drills over South Korea.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said the F-22s were on “static display” at Osan as part of the monthlong military exercises and “to provide South Korean senior leaders with an orientation to the aircraft, which are an advanced capability that is available for the defense of South Korea.”
The flights Sunday were the fourth time that F-22s, one of the Air Force’s most advanced fighters, have deployed to South Korea, the Pentagon said.
The latest U.S. moves came as North Korea announced the appointment of a 74-year-old economics expert as prime minister, Pak Pong Ju, who served as prime minister for four years ending in 2007.