* Washington watching launch preparations 'very closely'
* Pyongyang says it wants to put a satellite in orbit
* U.S. says it is a missile test, would violate UN measures
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, Dec 6 The United States is shifting
warships into position to track and possibly defend against a
planned North Korean rocket launch while urging Pyongyang to
cancel its second such attempt this year, the head of the U.S.
Pacific Command said on Thursday.
Admiral Samuel Locklear, who commands U.S. forces in the
Asia-Pacific region, said warships were being moved to the best
locations to track the rocket during its launch and flight,
which North Korea has set for sometime between Dec. 10 and 22.
The United States is watching preparations for the launch
"very closely," he told a Pentagon news conference. He said U.S.
warships were being moved to monitor the rocket, as they were
when Pyongyang attempted a similar launch in April.
"It should seem logical that we'll move them around so we
have the best situational awareness," he said. "To the degree
that those ships are capable of participating in ballistic
missile defense, then we will position them to be able to do
Pyongyang says the launch aims to put a satellite into
space. The United States and many other countries view it as a
test of a long-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that
would violate U.N. resolutions and further destabilize the
Korean Peninsula. The North Korean launch attempt in April
Locklear said the repositioned U.S. ships would help answer
a series of questions.
"If they do violate the Security Council and launch a
missile, what kind is it? What is it about? Where does it go?
Who does it threaten? Where do the parts of it ... that don't go
where they want it to go, where do they go? And what are the
consequences of that?" he said.
The admiral said his main concern was reassuring U.S. allies
that the United States was effectively monitoring the situation.
"We believe it is still contradictory to the U.N. Security
Council resolutions ... because of the nature of the type of
missile that they will be firing and the implications it has for
ballistic-type of activity somewhere down the road and the
destabilizing impact that will have on the security environment
throughout the region," Locklear said.
He said there had been signs that the government of new
leader Kim Jong-un would take a more "rational approach" to how
it deals with its economy, its citizens and its international
Kim took power after the death of his father, former leader
Kim Jong-il, on Dec. 17. The anniversary of his father's death
falls during the time frame set by North Korea for the rocket
launch. Presidential elections in neighboring South Korea take
place two days later, on Dec. 19.
Locklear said while there was hope for a shift in North
Korea's political direction, Pyongyang was once again poised to
violate U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding its nuclear
"We encourage the leadership in North Korea to consider what
they are doing here and the implications on the overall security
environment on the Korean Peninsula, as well as in Asia," he