Tokyo: North Korea`s increasingly sophisticated missile technology is a concern to Asia and the United States, the new US Pacific commander said Wednesday ahead of Pyongyang`s planned rocket launch.
"We have seen over time the North Koreans pursue
increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile defence technologies," Admiral Samuel Locklear, the head of the US
Pacific Command based in Hawaii, said in Tokyo during his
first visit to Japan in the role.
"And I understand that if they are able to achieve their
capabilities over the long run that they are pursuing... it
will increase the potential ranges of the missile technology
that they have and they could proliferate.
"And this... will be a concern for the alliance, a concern
for the region as well as a concern for the United States," he
He declined to say how far advanced he believed North
Korea`s missile technology was, but added "hopefully the North
Koreans would make the decision to de-escalate... and they
would not continue to pursue the missile technology which has
a destabilising effect on the security of the region."
Shortly after Locklear spoke, North Korea announced it was
fuelling the rocket it says will propel a satellite into orbit
to collect data on forests and natural resources within its
The West says it is a disguised ballistic missile test, in
violation of a United Nations ban, and fears that North Korea
will follow up with a third nuclear test.
Locklear, who oversees more than 300,000 service members
and a fleet of aircraft and warships over an area spanning the
west coast of the United States to the western border of India, said he knew little about any atomic test.
"Beyond (what) you have seen in that open press reporting,
I have no further information," he said.
Locklear was nominated for the post in December after a
year in which US President Barack Obama repeatedly stressed
the strategic importance of the Asia-Pacific region and vowed
to expand the American military`s presence, announcing the
deployment of up to 2,500 US Marines in Australia.
The admiral told reporters in Tokyo he was looking to
strengthen existing alliances in the region.
"When you look at... the rebalancing, you should look at
the totality of what`s happening within the Japanese-US
alliance... the cooperation, the interoperability. It goes
well beyond just the issue of ballistic missile defence" that
Tokyo and Washington are jointly developing, he said.
"It goes into information-sharing. It goes into cyber. It
goes into all the aspects that make a good alliance better."
A US congressional advisory report released last month
said China`s cyber warfare capabilities would pose a danger to
US military forces in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.