U.S. missile defense focused on North Korea and Iran
Hagel announced on Friday that the Pentagon would add the new interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska and deploy a second missile-defense radar in Japan. The new interceptors would cost approximately $1 billion and would require the approval of Congress, Reuters reports.
"By taking the steps I outlined today 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 said, according to Reuters.
North Korea recently issued a threat to stage a preemptive nuclear attack against the U.S. as the United Nations prepared new sanctions against Pyongyang in response to its third nuclear test on February 12. Hagel said the plan to deploy anti-missile interceptors is an effort to stay ahead of North Korea, which may still be years away from being able to hit the continental U.S. with a nuclear weapon.
The Pentagon said it would only purchase the extra interceptors if they prove successful in tests. The current interceptors have not hit a target since 2008.
The potential addition of 14 new interceptors represents a reversal of the Obama administration's 2010 decision to stop expansion of the interceptor system at 30. The U.S. currently has 26 interceptors at Fort Greely and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Hagel said there is also a possibility of creating a site on the East Coast where the Pentagon could field additional interceptors, Reuters reports.