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US deploys missiles as North Korean army gets ‘final approval’ for nuclear attack

The Pentagon said this evening that the US remains “vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations” as it announced the deployment of the missile system.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel
Image: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Press Association Images

THE UNITED STATES is to deploy a THAAD missile defence battery to defend its bases on the Pacific island of Guam in response to recent heightened rhetoric from North Korea.

The announcement of the deployment has been followed by claims from the North Korean army that it has final approval for a nuclear attack on the United States.

In a statement published by the official KCNA news agency, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said it was formally informing Washington that US threats would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”.

“The merciless operation of (our) revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” the statement said.

Earlier, in its own statement the US Department of Defense said that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) ballistic missile defence system would be deployed as a “precautionary move to strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat”.

The THAAD system will include a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles, a tracking radar and an integrated fire control system.

“This deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the US Territory of Guam and US forces stationed there,” the statement said.

The news that the ground-based system would be in place in the coming weeks came after two Aegis anti-missile destroyers were sent to the western Pacific to intercept any North Korean strike against US or allied targets.

It comes amid heightened  tensions between communist North Korea and the West following days of warlike rhetoric from Pyongyang in response to new UN sanctions and military drills carried out by the US and South Korea.

The Pentagon added: “The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations.

“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies, and our national interests.”

- with reporting from AFP

Earlier: Tensions rise as North Korea blocks access to crucial industrial zone

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Hugh O'Connell

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