WASHINGTON — 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 John McCain has been deployed to the region. The Pentagon at first said that a similar type of destroyer, the 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 U.S.-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 U.N. sanctions and annual South Korea-U.S. 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.