The threat posed by North Korea forced a change in U.S. ballistic missile defense planning, Foreign Policy quoted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as saying on Thursday.
Hagel announced earlier this month the Pentagon would field another 14 Ground-based Midcourse Defense missile interceptors in Alaska, which is expected to cost $1 billion. The Missile Defense Agency already has 26 silo-based interceptors at Fort Greely and another four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
“We don’t have any choice,” Hagel told reporters, “in defending this country but to anticipate worst-case scenarios. We do know the North Koreans have missile capability. We know that they have significant capability.”
The North recently threatened to carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the United States and South Korea. Ruler Kim Jong Un on Friday ordered his nation's missile forces to remain ready to launch.
Pyongyang, though, is not yet thought to have a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead to the United States. Its mobile KN-08 system is not believed to have undergone flight testing.
“As we think through long-term threats, we have to plan sure for short-term, but also for long-term,” Hagel said during a press briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. “And the announcement that was made a couple of weeks ago wasn’t some knee-jerk reaction to the young leader’s threats in North Korea.”
“You only need to be wrong once,” the Pentagon chief added, “and I don’t know what president, or what chairman, or what secretary of defense wants to be wrong once when it comes to nuclear threats.”