A Pentagon spokesman warns against connecting ship deployment to recent tensions
South Korea warns North of "strong response" to any attack
U.S. deploys F-22s to South Korea as part of joint military exercises
North Korea said it was entering a "state of war" with the South
The U.S. Navy is moving a warship and a sea-based radar platform closer to the North Korean coast in order to monitor that country’s military moves, including possible new missile launches, a Defense Department official said Monday.
The decision to move at least one ship, the destroyer USS John S. McCain, and the oil rig-like SBX-1 are the first of what may be other naval deployments, CNN has learned.
They follow weeks of belligerent rhetoric from North Korea, including threats to use nuclear weapons.
The United States and South Korea have gone ahead with joint military exercises despite the threats, and South Korea warned Monday that any provocative moves from North Korea would trigger a strong response “without any political considerations.”
The United States has bolstered the exercises with shows of force that included overflights by nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers, massive Cold War-era B-52s and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
“If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said at a meeting with senior defense and security officials, according to her office.
Her comments came after North Korea rattled off fresh volleys of bombastic rhetoric over the weekend, declaring that it had entered a “state of war” with the South and labeling the U.S. mainland a “boiled pumpkin,” vulnerable to attack.
The two Koreas are technically still at war after their conflict in the early 1950s ended in a truce not a peace treaty.
The secretive regime of Kim Jong Un has delivered a steady stream of verbal attacks against South Korea and the United States in recent weeks, including the threat of a nuclear strike.
It has lashed out at the U.S.-South Korean military drills currently under way and at the tougher U.N. sanctions that were slapped on it after its latest nuclear test in February.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman George Little warned against connecting the ship deployment to recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“I would urge everyone to disconnect this ship deployment from recent military exercises in South Korea. We have regular ship movements in the Asia-Pacific region and we use our ship movements for any number of purposes,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Analysts have expressed heavy skepticism that the North has the military capabilities to follow through on many of its melodramatic threats.
But concerns remain that it could carry out a localized attack on South Korea, as it did in November 2010 when it shelled Yeongpyeong Island, killing four people.
Displays of strength
The United States has sought to show its willingness to defend its South Korean ally by drawing attention to displays of its military strength during the drills taking place in South Korea.