United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced to deploy new 14 interceptors in Alaska to bolster country's missile defence system against the increasing threat from North Korea.
"We will strengthen homeland missile defense by deploying 14 additional ground-based interceptors, GBIs, at Fort Greely, Alaska. That will increase the number of deployed ground-based interceptors from 30 to 44, including the four GBIs at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California," Hagel told reporters on Friday.
These additional GBIs will provide a nearly 50 per cent increase in our missile defense capability, he added.
Secondly, with the support of the Japanese government, the US is planning to deploy an additional radar in Japan, he said, adding that this will provide improved early warning and tracking of any missile launched from North Korea at the US or Japan.
The Pentagon, he said, is also conducting environmental impact studies for a potential additional GBI site in the US. While the administration has not made any decision on whether to proceed with an additional site, conducting environmental impact studies will shorten the timeline for construction should that decision be made, he added.
Hagel said the series of steps announced by him keep the US ahead of the challenge posed by Iran and North Korea's development of longer-range ballistic missile capabilities.
The US has missile defence systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM attacks, but North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and is engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations, Hagel said.
"Specifically, North Korea announced last month that it conducted its third nuclear test and last April displayed what appears to be a road-mobile ICBM. It also used its Taepo Dong II missile to put a satellite into orbit, thus demonstrating progress in its development of long-range missile technology," the defence secretary said.
With the new announcements in place, Hagel said he is confident that the fresh deployment of interceptors gives the US the security it needs and the people need to be reassured that that security is there.
Hagel also announced the restructuring of the SM-3 IIB programme.
"We had planned to deploy the SM IIB as part of the European phased adaptive approach. The purpose was to add to the protection of the US homeland already provided by our current GBIs against missile threats from the Middle East," he said.
"The timeline for deploying this program had been delayed to at least 2022 due to cuts in congressional funding. Meanwhile, the threat matured. By shifting resources from this lagging programme to fund the additional GBIs as well as advanced kill vehicle technology that will improve the performance of the GBI and other versions of the SM-3 interceptor, we will be able to add protection against missiles from Iran sooner while also providing additional protection against the North Korean threat," he added.
Hagel said the missile deployments the US is making in phases 1 through 3 of the European phased adaptive approach, including sites in Poland and Romania, will still be able to provide coverage of all the European North Atlantic Treaty Organisation territory, as planned, by 2018.
The collective result of all these decisions will be to further improve the US ability to counter future missile threats from Iran and North Korea, while maximizing increasing scarce taxpayer resources, he added.
Image: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel