Dempsey: Pentagon prepared for potential North Korean action
Though he doesn't foresee North Korea taking serious military action, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon has bolstered its missile defenses to be prepared.
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Thurman has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense to excuse his absence until he can testify at a later date.Skip to next paragraph
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Dempsey said he had consulted with Thurman about the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Dempsey said both Thurman and South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Jung Seung-jo, decided it would be best for them to remain in Seoul rather than come to Washington. The Korean general had planned to meet with Dempsey, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, in mid-April for regular talks.
Dempsey said that instead of meeting in person with Thurman and Jung in Washington, they will consult together by video-teleconference.
The official said US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test until April because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the Korean crisis. Hagel made the decision Friday, the official said.
North Korea's military said this past week that it was authorized to attack the US using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons. North Korea also conducted a nuclear test in February and in December launched a long-range rocket that could potentially hit the continental US.
The US has moved two of the Navy's missile-defense ships closer to the Korean peninsula, and a land-based system is being deployed to the Pacific territory of Guam later this month. The Pentagon last month announced longer-term plans to strengthen its US-based missile defenses.
The defense official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the Minuteman 3 test delay and requested anonymity, said US policy continues to support the building and testing of its nuclear deterrent capabilities. The official said the launch was not put off because of any technical problems.
Dempsey said he was not familiar with details of the Minuteman decision because he was traveling in Afghanistan.
But, he said, "it would be consistent with our intent here, which is to do what we have to do to posture ourselves to deter (North Korea), and to assure our allies. So things that can be delayed should be delayed."
A South Korean national security official said Sunday that North Korea may be setting the stage for a missile test or another provocative act.
Citing North Korea's suggestion that diplomats leave the country, South Korean President Park Geun-hye's national security director said the North may be planning a missile launch or another provocation around Wednesday, according to presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing.