The U.S. Department of Defense is responding to threats from North Korea by bolstering its defenses, installing an advanced missile system in Guam to counter a potential attack from the Asia-Pacific. A statement from the Pentagon labeled the decision as a “precautionary move” to strengthen its regional defenses against North Korea specifically.
The defensive action is the first major move from the Pentagon since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was confirmed for his post. Making one of his first announcements on behalf of the department, Hagel again characterized statements from officials in Pyongyang as aggressive.
“Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger,” he said Wednesday. “I hope the North will ratchet this very dangerous rhetoric down.”
North Korea has identified U.S. bases in Guam and other Pacific locations as potential targets for an attack. The rising conflict is also placing pressure on neighboring South Korea and Japan to take action. Additionally, North Korea’s relationship with China could make U.S. involvement even more tumultuous.
The announcement from the Pentagon comes shortly after the closing of a border crossing between North and South Korea, the first since 2009. The crossing allowed South Korean workers access to the jointly run Kaesong industrial Park, but hundreds of workers are now shut out of the location. Some 124 South Korean companies operate out of the industrial area, with more than 50,000 North Koreans finding work there.
So far the Department of Defense maintains that it is acting solely in response to North Korea’s aggressive statements. Officials from the United Nations and Russia have also criticized the legitimacy of North Korea’s nuclear testing and personnel. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the country still has the “option” to join the global community, but denounced the threats as “dangerous” and “reckless.”
“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,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said.