U.S. military planners are taking “defensive measures” to hedge against the threat of an attack from North Korea, a message Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to deliver while traveling in Asia this week.
“These are very clearly defensive measures that we’re taking in response to an increasingly worrying, concerning threat from North Korea,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Monday.
Those measures include sending South Korea unmanned aerial vehicles capable of attacking ground targets in North Korea, in addition to the delivery of a highly controversial missile defense battery. Simultaneously, U.S. and South Korean military forces are carrying out major war games until early April.
“This is, I think, an ongoing effort to defend the Republic of Korea and U.S. interests in order maintain regional security, stability, and economic prosperity,” Toner said.
China and Russia have registered fierce opposition to the missile defense battery, but Tillerson will defend the moves this week in Asia while trying to build support for more aggressive moves.
“We have to look at new ideas, new ways of dealing with North Korea,” Toner said. “China understands that threat. They’re not oblivious to what’s happening in North Korea.”
The deployments are taking place as some American leaders feel renewed “urgency” due to a series of North Korean nuclear weapons program tests, as well as a political crisis in South Korea that could result in leadership more inclined to satisfy Chinese concerns about the strategic balance of power in the region.
“I think that there’s going to be an urgency by our military, which I support, to put the [missile defense batter] in South Korean before the South Korean election,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told the Washington Examiner.