The commander of American military forces in the Pacific region said Thursday that warships equipped with advanced radar and other ballistic-missile defense sytems were being relocated to monitor a potential rocket launching by North Korea.
The commander, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, said the American military was watching for the expected North Korean operation "very closely," and he reiterated that the launching of any long-range missile would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.
North Korea announced on Saturday that it would try to launch another long-range rocket before the end of the year. The launching, expected sometime between Monday and Dec. 22, would commemorate the death a year ago of North Korea's longtime ruler, Kim Jong-il, and would come as his son Kim Jong-un, the current leader, attempts to build crediblity.
During a Pentagon news conference on Thursday, Admiral Locklear discussed the relocation of American warships in the Pacific Ocean and acknowledged the assignment of ballistic-missile defense vessels to monitor, and learn as much as possible about, any launching by North Korea.
"It should seem logical that we'll move them around so we have the best situational awareness," Admiral Locklear said. "And to the degree that those ships are capable of participating in ballistic-missile defense, then we will position them to be able to do that." The goal would be to track a missile launch to determine "what kind is it? What is it about? Where does it go? Who does it threaten?" he said.
He acknowledged that the military's missile-defense efforts in the Pacific region were also designed to reassure allies worried about North Korea's missile capabilities, and had a role in homeland security for the United States.
Although North Korea says its missile launches are to loft satellites into orbit for peaceful purposes, American officials consider these missions a cover for testing technology for intercontinental ballistic missiles that could eventually be used to carry nuclear weapons.
In North Korea's most recent launching of such a rocket, in April, the missile disintegrated shortly after takeoff.
The Navy's missile defense ships carry interceptors that are capable of shooting down a long-range missile in the unlikely event that this was called for.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.