US missile defense shield to counter North Korea threat

By Lolita C. Baldor/The Assocaited Press

WASHINGTON — In the face of escalating threats from North Korea, the Pentagon said Wednesday it will deploy a missile defense system to Guam to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region’s protections against a possible attack.

The delivery of the missile shield system comes as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel labeled North Korea’s recent rhetoric as a real, clear danger and threat to the U.S. and its Asia-Pacific allies. The Pentagon chief said the U.S. is doing all it can to defuse the situation.

Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System is the latest step the U.S. has taken to bolster forces in the region in a far-reaching show of force aimed at countering the North Korean threat.

The North Korean army is warning Washington that its military has been cleared to wage an attack using “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear” weapons.

The threat from the unnamed army spokesman early Thursday is latest in a series of escalating warnings from North Korea, which has railed for weeks against joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea and has expressed anger over tightened sanctions for a February nuclear test.

The spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency that troops have been authorized to counter U.S. aggression with “powerful practical military counteractions.”

The Pentagon already has sent dispatched bombers, stealth fighters and ships.

Hagel told an audience at the National Defense University that there is a path to peace on the troubled Korean peninsula, but it doesn’t include making nuclear threats or taking provocative actions.

The land-based missile defense system includes a truck-mounted launcher, tracking radar, interceptor missiles, and an integrated fire control system. The Pentagon said the system will boost defenses for American citizens in Guam, a U.S. territory, and U.S. forces stationed there.