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Hagel: US taking North Korea nuke threats seriously

US increases military presence in air, sea, around Korean peninsula, will deploy missile defense system to Guam

Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31 (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31 (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that North Korea’s recent rhetoric presents a real, clear danger and threat to the US and its Asia-Pacific allies.

He said that America is doing all it can to defuse the situation.

Hagel told an audience at the National Defense University that there is a path to peace on the troubled Korean peninsula, but it does not include making nuclear threats or taking provocative actions.

Hagel’s comments come as tensions continue to rise between North and South Korea, triggering a show of military strength by the US in the surrounding skies and waters.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that it will deploy a ballistic missile defense system to the Pacific island of Guam to strengthen the region’s protections against a possible North Korean attack.

Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System is the latest step the US has taken to bolster forces in a show of force aimed at countering the North Korean threat.

The Pentagon already has sent bombers, stealth fighters and ships to the area.

The North has vowed to increase production of nuclear weapons materials and threatened a pre-emptive strike against the US.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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