Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 20:49 UK

US 'prepared' for N Korea missile

Robert Gates: "We are in a good position to protect American territory"

The US is "in a good position" to protect its territory from a potential North Korean missile strike, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said.

His comments came in response to a report that North Korea was considering launching a missile towards Hawaii.

"We do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile to the West, in the direction of Hawaii," Mr Gates said.

The US has approved the deployment of missiles and radar to "provide support" in the event of an attack, he added.

Bank warning

North Korea's nuclear ambitions have long been the focus of international concern.

After a period in which the country appeared to be willing to suspend its programme, North Korea has recently begun to increase its sabre-rattling, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington.

On 25 May, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test and has subsequently test-fired a number of short-range missiles.

North Korean missile
North Korea has stepped up its missile programme in recent weeks

Our correspondent says the Pentagon is also tracking the movement of a North Korean ship to ensure that it does not break UN sanctions.

And he says that in a separate move, the Obama administration has issued a warning to all US banks that North Korea may try to avoid financial sanctions by engaging in deceptive practices.

The UN Security Council passed tough new sanctions in response to North Korea's nuclear tests, and Russian and China - the country's traditional allies - on Thursday called for North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

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