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MISSILE NEWS
Guam heightens alert level after N. Korea threats
by Staff Writers
Hagatna, Guam (AFP) April 11, 2013


US radar in place to counter N.Korea threat: official
Washington (AFP) April 11, 2013 - A powerful US military sea-based radar is now in place to detect any possible missile launches by North Korea, according to a senior US defense official.

"The SBX is in position," the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP late Wednesday.

The official would not offer more details but confirmed the SBX, a floating X-band radar that resembles a giant golf ball, had reached a location at sea where it could track missiles fired by the Pyongyang regime.

US and South Korean forces remain on heightened alert amid expectations North Korea will launch a missile or multiple missiles before the April 15 celebrations for the birthday of the North's late founder, Kim Il-Sung.

The United States has already bolstered its missile defenses in the region to help protect allies South Korea and Japan as well as US bases in Guam.

Two US Arleigh-class destroyers have been sent to the western Pacific with anti-missile weaponry while ground-based THAAD interceptor batteries had been deployed to Guam, a US territory about 3,380 kilometers (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea.

The US military also staged shows of force as part of drills with South Korea, with over-flights by B-52 and B-2 bombers as well as sophisticated F-22 fighter jets.

The floating X-band radar, which sits atop a platform similar to an oil rig, had been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

The SBX radar, which is 85 meters (280 feet) tall and operated by civilian contractors, is supposed to detect missile launches over a range of at least 2,000 kilometers.

Guam has raised its official threat level and on Thursday tested its emergency alert system after warnings from North Korea identifying the island as a potential missile target.

With a North Korean missile test expected at any time, authorities said the US territory in the western Pacific was on yellow alert, the middle phase of a three-step "traffic light" system comprising green, yellow and red levels.

"This means we should continue with our daily lives while preparing ourselves for any potential of an emergency," the government said in a statement, describing the risk to the island as "medium".

"It also means the government pulls its resources together through the emergency operations centre to ensure we are prepared to respond to emergencies."

Guam's emergency alert system, which sets off sirens across the island and interrupts regular television and radio broadcasts to deliver information, was tested at 10:00 am (0000 GMT) Thursday.

Governor Eddie Calvo said the test had been successful and the Guam Department of Homeland Security's joint information centre was now operating 24-hours a day to provide advice to the island's population of 180,000.

Homeland Security has described the chances of a North Korean attack as remote, noting that Guam "is protected by the greatest nation and military in the world, the United States of America".

But as a precaution, it launched a campaign this week urging residents to prepare emergency kits and family disaster plans.

Fact sheets have been distributed around the island advising residents on how to protect their families, stay informed and perform tasks such as blast-proofing doors and windows with plastic and tape.

Calvo said he had received assurances from US military commanders on the island, which bristles with American military facilities and bases, that defences were "strong and adequate".

"Even though we're protected, it's important we are vigilant," he said. "Look at the fact sheets, be prepared and stay tuned for news coming out of the joint information centre."

Guam, which came under US control in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, lies about 3,380 kilometres (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea, meaning it is theoretically in range of Pyongyang's untested Musudan missiles.

Washington has scrambled to deploy its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile shield to Guam, a truck-mounted system capable of tracking and shooting down an enemy projectile.

Despite Pyongyang's menacing rhetoric, many islanders say their daily life has not been disrupted by the threat of a missile strike.

"At home, we discuss it from time to time but we are not making any preparations because we know that it's just sabre-rattling," Gina Tabonares-Reilly told AFP earlier this week.

"There are good enough missile interceptors underneath our waters... North Korea knows that and they are smart (enough) not to commit suicide."

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