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The United States has deployed a sophisticated sea-based radar to the ocean east of Japan to track any North Korean ballistic missile launches, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.
The Sea based X-Band Radar (SBX) looks like an enormous balloon mounted on a large ocean oil rig. The large platform however floats and holds a dome radar designed to track ballistic missiles, then feed the data to a separate command that can fire an interceptor missile to shoot it down.
A Pentagon official speaking on condition of anonymity described the move as a "routine deployment" that is "not in relation to current events."
The official also said that the anti-missile destroyer USS John McCain has been deployed to the region. The Pentagon at first said that a similar type of destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, had been deployed.
Over the past days the United States has sent its most sophisticated weapons to the region in a forceful display of gunboat diplomacy.
The United States previously took the unusual step of announcing test bombing by nuclear-capable state-of-the-art B-2 bombers.
It has also deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to South Korea as part of a US-South Korean military exercise, dubbed "Foal Eagle," that is scheduled to last until April 30.
The Korean peninsula has been caught in a cycle of escalating tensions since the North's February nuclear test, which followed a long-range rocket launch in December.
Subsequent UN sanctions and annual South Korea-US military exercises have been used by Pyongyang to justify a wave of increasingly dire threats against Seoul and Washington, including warnings of missile strikes and nuclear war.