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U.S. commander seeks buildup in Pacific

Official: Deployments would send signal to North Korea

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

The United States is considering dispatching the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, based at Yokosuka, Japan, to the Persian Gulf.

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CNN's Mike Chinoy reports that North Korea needs U.S. support and wants to be treated as a legitimate equal.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific is asking that additional planes and ships be sent to the region as a signal to North Korea that as the U.S. prepares for war with Iraq, it is not letting down its guard, Pentagon officials tell CNN.

Adm. Tom Fargo has asked to beef up air and sea forces in the region, especially because the United States is considering dispatching the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, based at Yokosuka, Japan, to the Persian Gulf in case of war with Iraq.

"It's a deterrent option," one Pentagon official said, referring to both Fargo's request and the possibility of deploying the carrier.

North Korea responded Friday to President Bush's State of the Union speech, saying the standoff over its nuclear program is not of its doing and demanding that Washington sign a nonaggression treaty. (Full story)

Bush referred on Tuesday to U.S. allegations that North Korea has restarted a nuclear program suspended in the mid-1990s and said that Pyongyang would be shown "that nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation and continued hardship."

Pentagon sources say Fargo's proposal for additional aircraft includes a request to dispatch eight F-15s to Japan, and about two dozen long-range bombers -- B-1s and B-52s -- to the Pacific island of Guam.

Although Pentagon officials cautioned that it was "routine" to increase the number of land-based warplanes in Japan whenever the carrier based there is sent out of the region, officials also said the deployments were being considered as a signal to North Korea that the U.S. was not focused only on Iraq.

Pentagon sources say the U.S. is also considering replacing the USS Kitty Hawk with the USS Carl Vinson, which is conducting exercises near Hawaii.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not made a decision on the request, sources said.

A delegation representing South Korea's president-elect will travel to Washington next week for a meeting with President Bush to discuss the North's suspected nuclear program, The Associated Press reports.

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