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Ahead of North Korea's planned rocket launch, US dispatches destroyers

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(Read caption) Preparation: The US Navy's Aegis destroyers USS John S. McCain (left) and USS Chafee recently left this naval port at Busan, South Korea.

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The US said Sunday that it won’t shoot down whatever rocket North Korea is apparently preparing to launch between April 4-8. Why, then, have US Navy destroyers modified for ballistic missile defense been leaving Japanese and South Korean ports?

The anticipated launch has dramatically raised tensions in recent weeks: Pyongyang claims it’s merely launching a satellite; Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo say it’s a missile. (Read the Monitor's coverage about recent developments here and about preparations being made at a South Korean air base.)

One reason for dispatching the destroyers could be to provide backup for Japan. The close US ally has itself deployed antimissile systems and vowed to shoot down any debris falling toward its territory – a difficult task for which it would only have 10 minutes notice, according to Reuters.

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