The Pentagon said Wednesday that the U.S. would “be able to respond” if necessary to help a Marshall Islands-flagged ship that was diverted, and boarded, a day earlier by Iran — though it remains unclear how far the U.S. Navy might be willing to go if the tense situation escalates.
Obama administration officials have given conflicting signals over what obligation the U.S. has to protect the vessel, as the Marshall Islands and U.S. have a longstanding security agreement.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the USS Farragut, is in the area and “keeping an eye on things,” and in close enough proximity to the ship that they “will be able to respond if a response is required.”
When pressed on what kind of incident aboard the ship would elicit a U.S. Navy response, he was vague, saying: “These [U.S. military] assets give commanders options.” He said he didn’t know “what the possibilities are,” and the U.S. government is “in discussions with the Marshall Islands on the way ahead.”
White House and State Department officials also said the U.S. continues to monitor the situation.
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