March 16, 2013 08:47
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced plans to counter growing military threats from North Korea with 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors in the U.S. state of Alaska.
Hagel, speaking Friday in Washington, said the plan includes a new radar tracking station in Japan, and said the deployments are designed to "stay ahead of the threat" posed by North Korean advances in missile technology.
He said the United States already has 30 interceptors in place in California and Alaska, and that the new weaponry would be operational by 2017.
North Korea has threatened to unleash a second Korean War with nuclear weapons in response to UN sanctions imposed after Pyongyang's long-range missile test in December and its third nuclear test last month.
Earlier Friday, South Korea's official Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying a North Korean military unit test-fired two short-range rockets into the Sea of Japan near the South Korean border.
Separately, North Korean state television on Friday aired footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un overseeing a live artillery drill near the border. KCNA television said the drill took place Wednesday.
North Korea also continues to voice outrage over joint U.S.-South Korean military maneuvers under way on South Korean soil. Pyongyang has in past years criticized the annual drills and threatened military retaliation, but stopped short of direct military confrontation.
Tuesday, U.S. Defense Undersecretary (for policy) James Miller foreshadowed Hagel's announcement, saying the Pentagon was studying three alternative locations for missile interceptor deployment on U.S. soil. He said analysts are studying one possible East Coast site in response to increasing threats from Iran.
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