The U.S. will deploy a missile-defense system to Guam in coming weeks as a “precautionary move” against North Korea’s ballistic missile threat, the Pentagon said.
“This deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there,” the Defense Department said today in an e-mailed statement.
The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense program, or Thaad, that is being deployed is a land-based system made by Lockheed Martin Corp. that uses truck-mounted launchers to intercept missiles. The decision to send it to Guam is the latest U.S. military response to North Korea’s heightened rhetoric. Two Navy destroyers were deployed to the western Pacific this week.
“The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations,” the Pentagon said in the statement. “The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies, and our national interests.”
North Korea presents a “real and clear danger” to the U.S. and allies in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today. Kim Jong Un’s regime possesses a nuclear weapons capacity as well as the capability to deliver missiles, Hagel said in his first policy speech as secretary, delivered at the National Defense University in Washington.
“They’ve ratcheted up their bellicose, dangerous rhetoric, and some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies” including South Korea and Japan, Hagel said. He said North Korea also has leveled threats “directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened the West Coast of the United States.”
The U.S. is taking the threat seriously and is engaged in joint exercises with South Korea as well as working with China to ask its help in defusing the situation, Hagel said.
The Thaad interceptors made by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed are a centerpiece of the regional missile defense that the Obama administration plans to deploy in the Middle East against Iran’s medium- and long-range ballistic missiles.
The Pentagon bought 42 interceptors and associated components in fiscal 2012 for $999 million, according to the Defense Department budget.
North Korea has previously threatened to attack its southern neighbor and announced it will restart a mothballed plant that can generate plutonium for nuclear weapons. In the latest escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula, North Korea today prevented South Korean workers from entering a jointly run industrial park.
Workers weren’t being allowed into the Gaeseong zone, the first blockage since 2009, though those already staying in the complex were allowed to leave, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung Suk said. North Korea said March 30 it may shut the park in response to flights over the Korean peninsula by U.S. stealth bombers.
North Korea’s decision to bar the South Korean workers was “a regrettable move,” Victoria Nuland, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, told reporters today in Washington.
“‘‘This is just a choice that further isolates the country rather than taking them in the direction of a better future,’’ she said.
South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index of stocks fell 0.2 percent today, while the won weakened as much as 0.5 percent, touching a six-month low, before finishing little changed at 1,117.60 per dollar. The yield on South Korea’s 2.75 percent bonds due March 2018 was unchanged at 2.56 percent, according to prices from Korea Exchange Inc.