As Washington steps up diplomacy to prevent a North Korean missile launch, the US military is also voicing growing confidence that it can shoot it down if Pyongyang goes ahead.
Stephen Bosworth, the new US administration’s envoy on North Korea, was holding talks in China on Wednesday as he consults allies on what could turn into an early foreign crisis for President Barack Obama.
But the US military is taking no chances with North Korea, which has warned it is preparing a “satellite launch”. Washington and Seoul say the real purpose is to test a missile which could theoretically reach the US state of Alaska.
In unusually blunt remarks, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the US Pacific Command based in Hawaii, said that interceptor ships are ready “on a moment’s notice.”
“Should it look like it’s something other than a satellite launch, we will be fully prepared to respond as the president directs,” he said in a recent interview with ABC News.
“Odds are very high that we’ll hit what we’re aiming at. That should be a source of great confidence and reassurance for our allies,” he said.