The Pentagon says it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to an Alaska-based missile defense system.
Defense officials say it’s a response to 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.
He said the 14 additional interceptors will be installed at Fort Greely, Alaska, where 26 already stand in underground silos.
Hagel also cited a previously announced Pentagon plan to place additional radar in Japan to provide early warning of a North Korean missile launch and to assist in tracking its flight path.
In adding 14 interceptors to a missile defense system based in Alaska, the U.S. is abandoning a key part of a European missile defense plan that’s been strongly opposed by Russia.
At the same time, the decision provides a potential opening for new arms control talks.
The Obama administration is citing development problems and a lack of money in canceling the interceptors that were to be deployed in Poland and possibly Romania early next decade.
Senator Lisa Murkowski applauded the move in a press release Friday.
“I am glad to hear the news that Alaska and America are finally being tapped to deliver a better blanket of protection for our nation,” said Murkowski.
Representative Don Young echoed the statement adding “Alaska is the front line in defending the United States of America against a missile threat from North Korea.”