Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will make a two-day visit to Seoul this weekend to discuss escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, amid reports that the Pentagon is increasing U.S. missile defenses in the wake of nuclear threats from North Korea.
Mr. Carter will meet the South Korean ministers of defense and foreign affairs, as well as senior officials appointed by President Park Geun-hye, Kyodo News reported Friday, citing a statement from South Korea's Defense Ministry.
North Korea in recent days has ratcheted up its bellicose rhetoric — criticizing the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle this month.
On Monday, the North said it was scrapping the 60-year-old cease-fire that halted the Korean War.
Pyongyang said this was a response to Key Resolve, which it called a rehearsal for an invasion of North Korea. The United States and South Korea maintain that the annual exercises are defensive.
Key Resolve involves about 10,000 South Korean troops and 3,000 U.S. personnel as well as weapons and equipment, including F-22 stealth fighter jets and B-52 bombers deployed from overseas U.S. bases.
Meanwhile, Fox News, citing congressional and U.S. official sources, reported that the Pentagon is set to deploy 14 additional ground-based interceptors at missile defense silos in Alaska and California.
The additional interceptors on the West Coast, designed to counter ballistic missiles coming over the North Pole or the Pacific Ocean from Asia, would bring the total number of interceptors to 44, as originally proposed by the George W. Bush administration. President Obama stopped the deployment of the additional interceptors when he took office in 2009, leaving the total number at 30, Fox said.
Fox reported that a senior Pentagon official hinted at the additional deployments last week in a speech to the Atlantic Council in Washington just days after Pyongyang threatened a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States.
"North Korea's shrill public pronouncements underscore the need for the U.S. to continue to take prudent steps to defeat any future North Korean ICBM," said James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy.
Mr. Miller said the Pentagon has "the ability to swiftly deploy up to 14 additional ground-based interceptors, if needed," now that Missile Field No. 1 at Fort Greely, Alaska, is complete.
Interceptors also are set up at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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