North Korean actions present real danger to the region: Hagel

Washington, April 4: The recent rhetoric and actions taken by Pyongyang in past few weeks present a real danger not only to Japan and S Korea but also to the American interests in the region, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

"Some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan, and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the US regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened the West Coast of the US," Hagel said on Wednesday at the National Defence University.

"As Secretary of Defence and I think beginning with the President of the United States, and all of our leaders, we take those threats seriously. We have to take those threats seriously. I think we have had measured, responsible, serious responses to those threats," he said.

Hagel said the US is working with China to diffuse the ongoing situation while the country is holding joint exercises with the South Koreans now.

"We are doing everything we can, working with the Chinese, others to defuse that situation on the Peninsula. But, as I said in a news conference, last week when asked about this, it only takes being wrong once. And I don't want to be the secretary of defence who was wrong once," Hagel further said.

As such the US will continue to take these threats seriously, he added.

He also said China does not want the increasing tension in the Korean peninsula to worsen any further.

"North Korea is a very good example of a common interest. Certainly, the Chinese don't want a right now complicated, combustible situation to explode into a worse situation. It's not in their interests for that to happen, certainly not in our interests or our allies' interests," the defence secretary said.

Meanwhile, the White House also said that the US President Barack Obama is seriously monitoring the situation.

"Well, we continue to monitor the situation. The provocative actions and bellicose rhetoric that we see from North Korea is obviously of concern, and we are taking the necessary precautionary measures, many of which have been reported on," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"It is also the case that the behavior of the regime in Pyongyang that we are seeing now represents a familiar pattern, and as I think we've seen over the past several administrations."

"So we are taking the necessary precautionary measures, but it is important to view this within the context of the kind of behavior that we've seen out of North Korea in the past," he noted.

Meanwhile in the wake of continued heated rhetoric from North Korea, the United States is deploying a ballistic missile defence system in Guam.

The announcement from Pentagon came on a day the North Korean army said that it has been given approval to launch nuclear strike on US threats.

"The Department of Defence will deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) Ballistic Missile Defence system to Guam in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat," the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

THAAD system is a land-based missile defence system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, and an integrated fire control system.

"This deployment will strengthen defence capabilities for American citizens in the US Territory of Guam and US forces stationed there," the Pentagon statement said.

The US continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations.

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