Washington, March 7 (Reuters): North Korea has declared a maritime exclusion zone off its coast in the Sea of Japan in a step that could signal a pending new missile test, the US defence department said today.
The department said it was aware of a three-day exclusion warning for March 8-11 declared by Pyongyang in virtually the same area where the North Koreans tested an anti-ship missile on February 25.
“We are certainly aware that they have filed a notice of exclusion. That is typically a precursor to a missile test. But we’re not overly concerned,” Pentagon spokesman navy Lt. Comdr. Jeff Davis said. The comments came amid rising tension in the region in a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The US state department said after the February 25 test in the Sea of Japan that it was a short-range anti-ship cruise missile and was apparently part of a periodic training exercise.
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that the stationing of US troops near the border with North Korea has become intrusive to South Korea, adding that forces could be moved out of South Korea altogether. South Korean Prime Minister, Goh Kun, said Seoul needed a US military presence as a “tripwire” that signals US commitment to defend the South.