Top U.S. and Australian leaders are discussing options for deepening joint antimissile efforts, amid fears over North Korean nuclear missile developments.
U.S. President Obama and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed enhancing U.S.-Australian missile defense cooperation when they hosted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for talks in Washington on Thursday and Friday.
A Thursday statement from the White House said the two allies were "working to explore opportunities to expand cooperation on ballistic missile defense, including working together to identify potential Australian contributions to ballistic missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region."
The United States already has a strong antimissile relationship with Japan and is attempting to get South Korea to join in a three-way missile defense arrangement as a countermeasure to feared nuclear-armed missile attacks by Pyongyang.
The Australian navy is acquiring new warships that could be outfitted with antimissile technologies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"This might mean the Australian Defense Force could end up mounting advanced missiles on its Aegis-equipped air-warfare destroyers," Lowy Institute security expert James Brown said.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang on Friday criticized U.S. efforts to deploy missile defenses in the region, focusing its umbrage on a recent U.S. suggestion that a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery could be fielded in South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
"The U.S. projected deployment of THAAD in South Korea and the South's moves to join in the U.S. [missile defense] are a dangerous military provocation aimed to mount a preemptive nuclear attack on the D.P.R.K. ... and to bring a nuclear disaster to the Korean Peninsula and the rest of Northeast Asia," the North Korean National Peace Committee said in a statement carried by official regime media.
The committee promised that the North would "not sit idle" in the face of foreign antimissile moves. "We will strongly react against them by bolstering nuclear deterrence," the statement said.