The United States says it will deploy more anti-missile interceptors in the American west coast in response to the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the plan – estimated to cost $1 billion – is designed to “stay ahead of the threat” from North Korean and Iranian advances in long-range ballistic missile technology.
The plan calls for the United States to add 14 interceptors in the west. The U.S. already has 30 interceptors in California and Alaska.
The plan also calls for the installation of an extra radar tracking station in Japan.
The additional defenses are planned to be in place by 2017.
Hagel said the plan also calls for the cancellation of the final phase of the missile-defense system the U.S. is building in Europe. That plan included the installation of interceptors in Poland and possibly Romania.
Russia has objected to the European missile defense system, saying it fears the system is designed to counter Russian missiles.
Hagel’s announcement March 15 followed recent threats of a nuclear attack on America from North Korea.
The North carried out a third nuclear test last month, leading to increased United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.
Concerns about the capabilities of communist-led North Korea have also intensified since the North used a rocket to put a satellite into orbit in December.
The North has also announced recently it was abandoning the 60-year old armistice that ended the Korean War.
Hagel, speaking to reporters in Washington, accused the north of engaging in a series of “irresponsible and reckless provocations.”
North Korea has demonstrated it has missiles that could strike rivals South Korea and Japan. But it has not yet shown it has the capability to fire missiles that could reach the continental United States.
U.S. officials said the planned interceptors would only be deployed if the systems perform well in upcoming tests. Reports say questions remain about the ability of the systems to knock down incoming missiles.