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U.S. to beef up missile defense after N.Korean nuclear threats

By Robert Burns

AP National Security Writer

LAST UPDATED: 12:17 p.m. HST, Mar 15, 2013

WASHINGTON » The Pentagon announced today it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to an Alaska-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles.

In announcing the decision, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is determined to protect the U.S. homeland and stay ahead of a worrisome North Korean missile threat. He acknowledged that the interceptors already in place to defend against potential North Korean missile strikes have had poor test performances.

"We will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitments to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression," Hagel told a Pentagon news conference.

He said the 14 additional interceptors will be installed at Fort Greely, Alaska, where 26 already stand in underground silos, connected to communications systems and operated by soldiers at Greely and at Colorado Springs, Colo. The interceptors are designed to lift out of their silos, soar beyond the atmosphere and deploy a "kill vehicle" that can lock onto a targeted warhead and, by ramming into it at high speed, obliterate it.

Hagel also cited a previously announced Pentagon plan to place an additional radar in Japan to provide early warning of a North Korean missile launch and to assist in tracking its flight path.

A portion of the $1 billion cost of the expanded system at Fort Greely will come from scrapping the final phase of a missile defense system the U.S. is building in Europe, Hagel said. The system in Europe is aimed mainly at defending against a missile threat from Iran; key elements of that system are already in place.

Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association, applauded the decision to scrap the final phase of the European system, calling it an addition that "may not work against a threat that does not yet exist."

Anticipating possible European unease, Hagel said U.S. commitment to defending Europe "remains ironclad."

The decision to drop the planned expansion in Europe happens to coincide with President Barack Obama's announced intention to engage Russia in talks about further reducing each country's nuclear weapons arsenal. The Russians have balked at that, saying Washington must first address their objections to U.S. missile defenses in Europe, which the Russians see as undermining the deterrent value of their nuclear arms.

Collina said the Russians may be more willing to talk about nuclear arms reductions now that the Obama administration had decided not to go forward with the final phase of its European missile defense system.

Hagel cited three recent developments in North Korea that prompted the Obama administration to act, including a nuclear test in February deemed reckless by Washington and condemned by the United National Security Council.

Hagel also cited Pyongyang's launch in December of a rocket that put a satellite into space and demonstrated mastery of some of the technologies needed to produce a long-range nuclear missile. And he noted that last April the North Koreans put on public display a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, the KN-08. Navy Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that missile is believed to be capable of reaching U.S. territory. Winnefeld appeared with Hagel at Friday's news conference.

Although not mentioned by Hagel, the North Koreas raised tensions further by threatening last Thursday to pre-emptively attack the U.S. Among its recent declarations, North Korea has said it will no longer recognize the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, though it has made such remarks before.

Republicans in Congress have criticized the administration for deciding several years ago that the North Korean missile threat did not justify expanding the interceptor fleet at Greely. Rep. Howard "Buck' McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said today the administration was guilty of "looking at threats through politically tinted glasses. Now that the administration has decided to see clearly, America can get back on the right course."

Winnefeld said the administration is seeking to make clear to new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, grandson of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, that he would lose catastrophically by attacking the U.S. or U.S. allies.

"And we believe that this young lad ought to be deterred by that. And if he's not, we'll be ready," Winnefeld said.

By personally announcing the expanded U.S. missile defense plan, Hagel appeared eager to instill confidence among Americans that they would be protected in the unlikely event that North Korea launched a strike.

"The American people should be assured that our interceptors are effective," he said.

The missile defense system was first fielded by the administration of President George W. Bush in late 2004. It has a spotty test record and has never been used in actual combat. In addition to the 26 interceptors at Greely, the system includes four interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Hagel said the 14 additional interceptors should be in place at Greely by September 2017 but not before they have been adequately tested.

James Miller, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the project would cost about $1 billion.

Miller and Hagel said the U.S. will conduct environmental studies on three additional potential locations for interceptors in the United States, including on the East Coast, as required by Congress. Hagel said there has been no decision to build additional missile defense sites.

Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, a vocal critic of the administration's missile defense and nuclear weapons policies, called the building of an East Coast missile defense site "the next logical and prudent step to ensure we can counter the rising threat to the homeland."

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cojef wrote:
NK intelligience already know how our missile defense system operates and its effectiveness. Heck we release enough data every time we have a test of Barking Sand on Kauai. Now news about our additional bases on the west coast. Guess it's a cat and mouse game, like "sabre-rattling by the NK's and US trumpeting our missile defense abilities. Diplomacy, strange methodology???
on March 15,2013 | 08:17AM
krusha wrote:
I doubt N Korea will try to target the west coast of the USA. If anything, they'll try and shoot something at Hawaii and Alaska instead since we're supposedly well within range of their missile range, so they better beef up the missile protection over here.
on March 15,2013 | 08:30AM
allie wrote:
They will hit South Korea and Japan first (if anyone)
on March 15,2013 | 10:13AM
HD36 wrote:
What was the "Axis of Evil?" Iran, N. Korea, and? Iraq?
on March 15,2013 | 07:55PM
BigOpu wrote:
I hope that puppet head kid realizes the doom and gloom he's causing for NK. Whether he sends a missile or not, NK is going to hurt in more ways then one.
on March 15,2013 | 08:31AM
808warriorfan wrote:
That "KID" was raised w/ a "Silver Spoon" in his mouth and doesn't know how the NK civilian population is hurting economically. He"s been brainwashed just like any other person in NK
on March 15,2013 | 07:04PM
loquaciousone wrote:
on March 15,2013 | 08:39AM
pcman wrote:
Why go through all the expense and expansion. We should just go ahead and preemptively take out all of the North Korean missile sites and nuclear facilities, their related forces and the leadership that advocates attacking the US. We are, after as desired by North Korea, back in the war again.
on March 15,2013 | 10:19AM
TLehel wrote:
I have a theory that this is another ploy by the American government to use this new "war" for their benefit, which is to take away more of our rights. Namely, to be able to declare martial law. Watch it unfold.
on March 15,2013 | 10:15AM
lee1957 wrote:
Take away more of our rights? Which ones are gone?
on March 15,2013 | 11:47AM
TLehel wrote:
2nd amendment is well on its way to being taken. It's starting with the ban of assault weapons. You think they'll stop there? It may take years, but the complacency of the American people and the maliciousness of our government will be our undoing. Also, there's the matter of this new RFID chip being implemented into Obamacare. Say goodbye to your 1st amendment as well people.
on March 15,2013 | 12:21PM
mitsuolee wrote:
Give him an early Christmas present the Delta Team.
on March 15,2013 | 10:19AM
romei wrote:
This is truely a lose lose situation... even if a Nuclear missile is shot down, the radiation willl be in the earth's atmosphere and creating havoc with it's after-math... I don't understand how North Korea or Iran doen'st think that this will be bad for them as well... we all live on this planet, one planet that needs serious taking care of ... with it's own natural disasters, adding man made catastrophy's is certainly futile - what sad and frightening times we live in...
on March 15,2013 | 10:28AM
kauai wrote:
Well, you can add China to your list of atmosphere/orbital polluters/contaminators. Remember a few years back when China tested an anti-satellite rocket and took out one of their own satellites? That exercise created a rather large cloud of orbiting debris. Such irresponsible actions....
on March 15,2013 | 04:37PM
LizKauai wrote:
The time for Peace has come. Time to start acting like adults sharing the planet.
on March 15,2013 | 11:33AM
HD36 wrote:
So true, but war, and rumors of war, make certain cartels fortunes. We already have interceptors in Japan, South Korea, and out in the ocean. This one has a larger moter and a few more bells and whistles though, so we must go further into debt.
on March 15,2013 | 04:18PM
hon2255 wrote:
Any attack on SKorea will cause the NKorean side to be oblierated , it would be suicidal for them.
on March 15,2013 | 11:40AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The Fear Machine ramps up. Oooh, North Korea gonna bomb us! All of this in order to justify another billion dollars of spending.
on March 15,2013 | 11:47AM
HD36 wrote:
You hit the nail on the head. We never fail to find a boogey man somewhere.
on March 15,2013 | 04:20PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
North Korea or Iran won't care if environmental assessments have been done. Defend the homeland first. Let the liberal tree-huggers whine all they like. If they don't like it, they can stay at Dennis Rodman's house.
on March 15,2013 | 12:15PM
entrkn wrote:
Time to eliminate North Korean nuclear program.
on March 15,2013 | 01:12PM
Bumby wrote:
North Korea is a piece (pond) used by defense related businesses to have the U.S. spend more money on military equipment for the benefit of these related businesses. Perfect timing due to the cutting of the budget.
on March 15,2013 | 01:20PM
false wrote:
Maybe true, but those nuts did make a threat. Just think if we did not make any preparations that those idiots decided to lob one our way. Then what would everyone say?
on March 15,2013 | 02:58PM
HD36 wrote:
We could give every American Citizen in our country more than $2 million dollars each for the price of some missles that Raytheon will make a fortune on.
on March 15,2013 | 04:15PM
bleedgreen wrote:
Since North Korea's leader said the cease fire is no longer in effect, then we could initiate a preemptive strike on their nuclear missile sites. Right? But that won't happen. We just gotta wait for them to initiate something. Hope this missile defense system works good.
on March 15,2013 | 06:36PM
hanalei395 wrote:
A "preemtive strike" on their nuclear missile sites... and the Korean War continues, with N. Korean troops crossing the 38th parallel, bringing the war to S. Korea. And U.S. ground troops in return won't cross the 38th...into N. Korea. Not with China on N. Korea's northern border.
on March 15,2013 | 07:34PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Hey! What about Hawaii and Guam? Most of our nuclear submarines are in Hawaii and Guam. Is the ship-based anti-missile system supposed to defend us?
on March 15,2013 | 06:58PM
HD36 wrote:
I don'thear them talkin the "Axis of Evil" rhetoric anymore. I thought we we're set to attack Iran.
on March 15,2013 | 07:48PM
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