WASHINGTON -- The United States is shifting four warships into position to track and possibly defend against a planned North Korean rocket launch, while urging Pyongyang to cancel its second such attempt this year, officials told NBC News.
The Aegis guided-missile cruiser Shiloh and three guided-missile destroyers John S. McCain, Benfold and Fitzgerald will be put in place as a "prudent precaution," officials told NBC News.
The Navy ships' guided missile will attempt to intercept and destroy the North Korean missile if it veers off course and threatens either Japan or the Philippines.
The North Koreans have announced they will attempt to "put a satellite into orbit" atop a ballistic missile sometime between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22.
"It should seem logical that we'll move them around so we have the best situational awareness," Adm. Samuel Locklear, who commands U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, told a Pentagon news conference, according to Reuters.
"To the degree that those ships are capable of participating in ballistic missile defense, then we will position them to be able to do that," he added.
He said U.S. warships were being moved to monitor the rocket, as they were when Pyongyang attempted a similar launch in April.
"It should seem logical that we'll move them around so we have the best situational awareness," he said. "To the degree that those ships are capable of participating in ballistic missile defense, then we will position them to be able to do that."
The United States and many other countries view the test of the long-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile as a violation of U.N. resolutions that would further destabilize the Korean Peninsula.
The North Korean launch attempt in April failed.
Locklear said the re-positioned U.S. ships would help answer a series of questions.
"If they do violate the Security Council and launch a missile, what kind is it? What is it about? Where does it go? Who does it threaten? Where do the parts of it ... that don't go where they want it to go, where do they go? And what are the consequences of that?" he said.
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