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The report said it was difficult to predict when the missile threat to the U.S. homeland will evolve, “but it is certain that it will do so.”

Iran, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it had conducted a rocket launch to place a satellite into orbit, a move that the White House called provocative.

North Korea’s April 2009 Taepodong test failed to orbit a small communications satellites, but showed that Pyongyang has developed “many technologies associated with an [intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)],” the report said.

The missile-defense report outlines the Obama administration’s plan for stepping up the deployment of short- and medium-range missile defenses, specifically to counter Iranian missiles.

“North Korea and Iran have shown contempt for international norms, pursued illicit weapons programs in defiance of the international community, and have been highly provocative in both their actions and statements,” the report said. “They have exploited the capabilities available to them to threaten others.”

Regional neighbors of both states may be limited in their actions and pursuit of interests because of the missile threat.

“Deterrence is a powerful tool, and the United States is seeking to strengthen deterrence against these new challenges,” the report said. “But deterrence by threat of a strong offensive response may not be effective against these states in a time of political-military crisis. Risk-taking leaders may conclude that they can engage the United States in a confrontation if they can raise the stakes high enough by demonstrating the potential to do further harm with their missiles. Thus, U.S. missile defenses are critical to strengthening regional deterrence.”

Iran has not stated its plan to build ICBMs, but the report said it continues to “pursue long-range ballistic missiles,” including the Safir space launcher that was used in August 2008 and February 2009 to launch satellites.

Current U.S. missile-defense systems include 30 ground-based long-range interceptors in Alaska and California, ground-based mobile Patriot and Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems and the Navy’s SM-3 anti-missile interceptor, based on Aegis warships.

In the next several years, the Pentagon plans to develop and deploy several advanced variants of the SM-3 missile, including a ground-based version in Poland.

The report said the most advanced SM-3 will have some capability to knock out long-range missile warheads and will be ready for use in “the 2020 time frame.”

The Obama administration canceled a plan to deploy long-range interceptors in Poland after Russia opposed the interceptor base and a related radar planned for the Czech Republic.

Instead, the administration will use ships deployed in waters closer to Iran to counter Iranian medium-range missiles, as well as interceptors in Poland to protect the Continent.

Critics of the scaled-back missile-defense plan say abandoning the proposal for stationing long-range missile interceptors in Europe will increase the U.S. vulnerability to a future Iranian missile strike on the United States.