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U.S. and South Korean defense officials have said they’ve seen nothing to indicate that Pyongyang is preparing for a major military action.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said there was "no specific information to suggest imminent threat to U.S. citizens or facilities" in South Korea. The U.S. Embassy has neither changed its security posture nor recommended U.S. citizens take special precautions, he said.
Pacific commander says U.S. could intercept North Korean missile
The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific reassured Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. military could intercept any missile launched by North Korea and aimed at American territory or its East Asian allies.
Adm. Samuel Locklear’s briefing to senators came amid growing concern that North Korea is about to test a rocket — some observers suggest as early as Wednesday — after weeks of bellicose threats.
“We have a credible ability to defend the homeland, to defend Hawaii, to defend Guam, to defend our forward deployed forces, and to defend our allies,” Locklear told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He said Pentagon agencies could quickly recognize a missile’s trajectory and knock it out of the sky with land-based or ship-based anti-missile batteries if it posed a threat.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Still, the United States and South Korea have raised their defense postures, as has Japan, which deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors in key locations around Tokyo on Tuesday as a precaution against possible North Korean ballistic missile tests.
In Rome, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the tensions as "very dangerous" and said that "any small incident caused by miscalculation or misjudgment" may "create an uncontrollable situation."
Also Tuesday, citing the tension, North Korea pulled out more than 50,000 workers from the Kaesong industrial park, which combines South Korean technology and know-how with cheap North Korean labor. It was the first time that production has been shut down at the complex, the only remaining product of economic cooperation between the two countries that began about a decade ago when relations were much warmer.
Other projects from previous eras of cooperation such as reunions of families separated by war and tours to a scenic North Korean mountain have been suspended in recent years.
Though the North Korean Foreign Ministry advised foreign embassies to evacuate, tourism officials are continuing to welcome visitors.
National carrier Air Koryo’s daily flight from Beijing was only half full on Tuesday. Flight attendants in red suits and blue scarves artfully kept in place by sparkling brooches betrayed no sense of fear or concern.
Tourist Mark Fahey, a biomedical engineer from Sydney, Australia, said he thought a war was "pretty unlikely."
Fahey, a second-time visitor to North Korea, said he booked his trip to Pyongyang six months ago, eager to see how the country might have changed under Kim Jong Un. He said he chose to stick with his plans, suspecting that most of the threats were rhetoric.
"I knew that when I arrived here it would probably be very different to the way it was being reported in the media," he told The Associated Press at Pyongyang airport. He said his family trusts him to make the right judgment, but "my colleagues at work think I am crazy."
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