The U.S. military is fully prepared to deal with any threats by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday, adding that no "special steps" were being taken at this point to bolster American forces in the region.
The United States says it will not allow Iran to block the strait, used for a third of the world's seaborne oil exports. The potential standoff has fanned fears of a descent into war in the Gulf that could inflame the Middle East.
Asked at a Pentagon news briefing whether Iran's threats had prompted a repositioning of U.S. forces in the region, Panetta said: "We are not [taking] any special steps at this point in order to deal with the situation."
"Why? Because frankly we are fully prepared to deal with that situation now."
U.S. analysts say Iran's navy does not have the size for a sustained physical blockade of the Strait, but does have mine-laying and missile capability.
General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military officer, also publicly expressed confidence earlier this month that the U.S. military could reopen the strait if Iran blocked it. However, there has been speculation that additional U.S. forces might be needed to do so, and U.S. media have been closely watching the movements of U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups.
Panetta noted the United States already had a robust military posture around the Gulf.
"We have continually maintained a strong presence in the region to make very clear that we are going to do everything possible to secure the peace in that part of the world," Panetta said.
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