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US deploys anti-missile ships before N.Korea launch

THE United States deployed a missile-interceptor ship from South Korea today, a military spokesman said, days ahead of a North Korean rocket launch widely seen as a long-range missile test that violates UN sanctions.

The launch presents the first significant challenge by the prickly state to US President Barack Obama, who will discuss Pyongyang's intentions with global leaders including Chinese President Hu Jintao this week at the G20 summit in London.

The United States, however, has no plans to shoot down the rocket in a test seen by Washington as part of Pyongyang's goal to eventually develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday.

"I would say we're not prepared to do anything about it," Gates said on "Fox News Sunday" when asked if the Pentagon planned to shoot down the missile.

"If we had an aberrant missile, one that looked like it was headed for Hawaii, we might consider it," he said, adding the Pentagon does not believe North Korea can put a warhead on the missile or reach the US West Coast.

US Forces Korea dispatched one Aegis-equipped destroyer on Monday and plans to send another one later in the day from the South Korean port of Busan, a spokesman said without offering further details.

Local media quoted informed sources as saying the vessels with sophisticated radar will monitor the launch, which Pyongyang has said is planned for April 4-8. South Korea also plans to dispatch one of its missile intercepting destroyers closer to the launch date, officials have said.

Japan deployed two missile-intercepting vessels to waters off its west coast at the weekend and another off its Pacific coast.


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