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US moves destroyer closer to North Korea coast

 
 
 
 
 
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The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (L) and USS Fitzgerald are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km east of Seoul, on March 9, 2013.

The United States is shifting a guided-missile destroyer in the Pacific to waters off the Korean Peninsula as tensions mount with North Korea, a US military official say.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that the US Navy has sent the USS Fitzgerald to the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula to defend against a possible North Korean rocket launch, AFP reported.

The shifting of the USS Fitzgerald was “a prudent move” meant to offer “greater missile defense options should that become necessary,” the unnamed official added.

On Sunday, the United States sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea as part of military exercises with the South Asian country.

On Saturday, Pyongyang announced that it is in a “state of war” with South Korea, warning that any provocation by Seoul and Washington will trigger an all-out nuclear war.

Pyongyang said henceforth “the North-South relations will be entering a state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly.”

“The long-standing situation of the Korean Peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over,” said a statement issued jointly by the government, political parties and other organizations.

Pyongyang also warned that if Washington and Seoul launched a preemptive attack, the conflict “will not be limited to a local war, but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war.”

Last week, North Korea said that its military should be prepared to attack “all US military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, including the US mainland, Hawaii, and Guam” and South Korea.

The announcement came days after South Korea and the US signed a new military pact in response to what they called even low-level provocations by Pyongyang.

On March 11, Seoul and Washington launched a week-long annual joint military maneuver near the Korean Peninsula despite warnings from Pyongyang. The maneuver involved 10,000 South Korean soldiers and about 3,000 US troops.

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