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(LEAD) U.S. to use all possible defense capabilities to safeguard S. Korea: Seoul

All News 16:19 February 29, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info from 3rd para)

SEOUL, Feb. 29 (Yonhap) -- The United States is committed to using the full range of its defense capabilities to safeguard South Korea in the event of war with North Korea, a defense ministry official here said Monday after attending a joint defense exercise in California.

The allies held their annual anti-nuclear joint exercise at Vandenberg Air Force Base last week where some 40 defense officials from the two countries discussed warfare strategies to counter North Korea's nuclear and weapons of mass destruction threats.

During the three-day exercise, South Korean officials were given a rare chance to observe the U.S. Air Force's test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Minuteman 3, which took place at the air base, the official told reporters, asking not to be named.

The U.S. side also demonstrated its contingency plan to deploy the U.S. Air Force's B-52 bomber to South Korea and the aircraft's capacity to carry nuclear bombs, the official noted, referring to a set of anti-North combat strategies discussed in the exercise.

"The U.S. has stressed that the full range of defense capabilities it has will be deployed for the defense of South Korea," the official added.

"Those displays were designed to give firm assurance on its promise of extended deterrence to South Korea," he noted.

They were also the latest in the series of military gestures taken by the two countries following North Korea's defiant nuclear and long-range missile tests earlier this year.

The U.S. has sent a B-52 bomber and four F-22 stealth bombers to South Korea in a show of military might against North Korea and pledged to provide "extended deterrence" to the ally.

This was the first time South Korean officials were shown the test launch of a Minuteman 3 missile. Some sources said the U.S. rescheduled the test for the South Korean delegate to join and watch.

The U.S. also has a warfare strategy to intercept North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles with its Ground-Based Interceptor, known as GBI, if the communist country launches them at the mainland U.S., the official said.

The South Korea delegation toured a GBI launch facility, the official said, adding that the U.S. is operating 30 units of GBI, including four in the Vandenberg base. The country plans to introduce 14 more units by 2017.

GBI is the U.S.' anti-ballistic missile system and designed to hit and destroy a target with kinetic power in the outer space at a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers.


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