US will act only if North Korea missile is a threat: Official

March 30th, 2009 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 30 (DPA) The US has no definitive plans for military intervention if North Korea launches a long-range missile, but would take steps if it were headed to US territory, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said.
Gates, who made the remarks on a Fox News Sunday talk show, said if an “aberrant missile” were headed for Hawaii, “we might consider” action.

“But I don’t think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point,” Gates said.

He said he had little doubt that Pyongyang was preparing to launch a satellite missile as a cover up for its weapons intentions. He did not think, however, it would be capable of reaching the US west coast or Alaska.

But he called North Korea’s stated plans to launch April 4-8 “very troubling”.

“If this is Kim Jong-il’s welcoming present to a new president, launching a missile like this and threatening to have a nuclear test, I think it says a lot about the imperviousness of this regime in North Korea to any kind of diplomatic overtures,” Gates said.

Over the past week, a US official confirmed that North Korea was loading a Taepodong missile onto a launch pad ahead of what Pyongyang said is a plan to place a satellite into space.

The official confirmed earlier Japanese media reports that the rocket was being moved onto the launch pad for North Korea’s announced April 4-8 launch.

The US, South Korea and Japan have said the launch is a guise for testing a ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2, theoretically capable of reaching the US state of Alaska.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said a launch would be regarded a “provocative act” and warned Pyongyang that there would be consequences if it goes ahead with the planned launch.

North Korea said the rocket is meant to carry a communications satellite into orbit. It comes amid North Korea threats against South Korea and has increased tensions in the region.

North Korea warned Wednesday that it would stop participating in the six-nation talks if it is subjected to more sanctions in response to a launch. The US and South Korea said launching the rocket would violate a 2006 UN Security Council resolution.

Chinese and South Korean officials met this week in Beijing to discuss a unified stance against the possible launch, but South Korean envoy Wi Sung Lac said they disagreed about what that response should be.

After North Korea last fired a Taepodong-2 in July 2006, which was followed three months later by its first, and so far, only nuclear test, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on its communist regime and warned it not to carry out further nuclear or missile tests.

The other five participants in the six-nation talks - the US, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia - tried last week to dissuade North Korea from its announced launch. Pyongyang reacted by warning that new sanctions would spell the end to the six-party negotiations on its denuclearisation. Earlier, its army also threatened retaliation should an attempt be made to shoot down its rocket.

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