WASHINGTON — The United States will deploy additional ballistic-missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast to increase the Pentagon’s ability to blunt a potential attack from North Korea, in a clear response to recent tests of nuclear weapons technology and long-range missiles by the North.
The new deployment will increase the number of ground-based interceptors to 44 from the 30 already based in California and Alaska. While the limited missile-defense system does not offer a 100 percent guarantee of knocking down a North Korean attack, the weapons send a signal of credible deterrence to the North’s limited intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal.
The Navy also recently bolstered its deployment of ballistic missile defense warships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, although the vessels were sent as part of an exercise even before the increase in caustic language from the North. As part of the Foal Eagle military exercise with South Korea, the Navy has four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in the region.
In announcing the deployments at the Pentagon on Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cited North Korea’s recent test of nuclear technology and long-range missiles, including the development of a mobile missile, as well as its launching of a satellite that showed increasing range for the North’s arsenal.
“The United States stands firm against aggression," Hagel said.
The new interceptors are scheduled to be deployed by 2017, at an estimated cost of just under $1 billion.
Officials acknowledged that the ground-based interceptors based in Alaska and California have shown dubious capabilities in tests, and said the additional interceptors would be deployed only when they had proven their capability. “We have confidence in our system," Hagel said.
The interceptors in California and Alaska are to blunt a long-range missile threat from North Korea. The United States also deploys Patriot Advanced Capability batteries in South Korea for defense of targets there.