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US sends ships to watch DPRK rocket

THE United States deployed two missile-interceptor ships from the Republic of Korea yesterday, days ahead of a Democratic People's Republic of Korea rocket launch widely seen as a long-range missile test.

US President Barack Obama will discuss Pyongyang's intentions with global leaders this week at the G20 summit.

The US does not intend to shoot down the rocket in a test seen by Washington as part of Pyongyang's goal to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said.

"I would say we're not prepared to do anything about it," Gates said on 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.

The US dispatched the guided missile destroyers from the South Korean port city of Busan, a spokesman said.

Local media quoted informed sources as saying the vessels, carrying 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 with sophisticated radar off its Pacific coast.

The North Korean rocket is supposed to drop booster stages either side of Japan. Officials said Tokyo is poised to shoot down debris that poses a threat to its public.

North Korea has installed the completed three-stage rocket on a launch pad at its Musudan-ri missile base on the east coast but it was unclear what was at the top of the rocket, the Institute for Science and International Security said, based on an analysis of satellite imagery.


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