US eyes tit-for-tat vs N. Korea – report

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In this photo taken on Saturday, March 9, 2013, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) arrives to participate in the annual joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve, between South Korea and the United States, as South Korean navy sailors wave South Korean and U.S. national flags at a naval port in Donghae, South Korea. AP

WASHINGTON – The United States and South Korea have drawn up plans for a measured tit-for-tat response to North Korean actions, which will be limited in order to prevent an escalation to broader war, The New York Times reported.

Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper late Sunday said the new “counter-provocation” plan is calling for an immediate but proportional “response in kind” to North Korea if it decides to launch a ground attack or a missile.

Under the plan, the source of any North Korean attack will be hit with similar weapons, the report said.

If the North Koreans were to shell a South Korean island that had military installations, the plan calls for the South to retaliate quickly with a barrage of artillery of similar intensity, the paper noted.

Kim Jang-Soo, chief national security adviser to South Korea President Park Geun-Hye, said Sunday that North Korea may test-launch a missile this week, as the United States delayed its own missile test due to soaring tensions on the peninsula.

Kim said a test-launch or other provocation could come before or after Wednesday, the date by which the North has suggested that diplomats leave Pyongyang.

If the North launches one of its new Musudan missiles, Pentagon officials said they would be ready to calculate its trajectory within seconds and try to shoot it down if it appeared headed toward impact in South Korea, Japan or Guam, The Times said.

But they planned to do nothing if it were headed toward open water, even if it went over Japan, the paper added.

According to The Times, the officials doubted that North Korean new leader Kim Jung-un would risk aiming the missile at the United States or its allies.

US President Barack Obama has ruled out striking at the missiles while they are on their launchers unless there is evidence they are being fitted with nuclear warheads, which intelligence officials doubt North Korea yet possesses, the paper said.

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