US military will reinforce Korea
From Roland Watson in Washington
[Times of London, 3 Feb]:
THE Pentagon is poised to increase its forces in the Far East amid American fears that North Korea is within weeks of producing nuclear weapons.
The build-up could include nearly three dozen bombers and an aircraft carrier, sent as a warning to Kim Jong Il, the North Korean dictator, not to exploit Washington’s focus on the Gulf.
The request for reinforcements, made by the Commander of US Forces in the Pacific, Admiral Thomas Fargo, highlights the delicate balance the Pentagon is facing as it confronts a possible war in Iraq and events unfolding on the Korean Peninsula.
Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, is believed likely to grant Admiral Fargo’s request, at least in part. It would mean deploying long-range bombers in Guam and adding fighter-bombers to US forces in Japan and South Korea. Mr Rumsfeld is also deciding whether to send the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to the region to cover the expected deployment of the USS Kitty Hawk from Japan to the Gulf.
Pentagon officials emphasised that such moves amounted to prudent planning, and should not be taken as a sign that the US was expecting hostilities.
However, they are very similar to the movement of forces ordered by President Clinton in 1994 when he was planning a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s nuclear complex at Yongbyon.
Mohamed Elbaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it was a matter of “weeks and months” before North Korea began manufacturing weapons from its stockpile of nuclear fuel.