- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2013

President Obama’s decision to deploy additional missile interceptors at Alaska’s Fort Greely reverses a decision he made in 2009 to scale back the number of active silos approved by President George W. Bush to blunt long-range nukes.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday announced that the U.S. will deploy 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors at Fort Greely to address threats of a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike from North Korea.

The number of interceptors on the West Coast will increase from 30 to 44 by 2017, as proposed by the Bush administration.

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the increase will cost an extra $200 million to reopen mothballed silos, citing a Pentagon estimate.

“Four years ago, the administration determined that the missile threat from countries like North Korea had changed, and, parting with established policy, decided to eliminate missiles from the proposed inventory and mothball the missile field built to house them,” Mr. McKeon, California Republican, said Friday. “At the time, House Republicans disputed the change in the threat and pressed the administration not to … close down vital infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry warned Monday that U.S. missile-defense plans could antagonize Pyongyang and raise tensions in the region.

“All measures seeking to increase military capacities will only intensify antagonism and will not help to solve the problem,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.

Without mentioning the United States by name, Mr. Hong said China believes efforts to resolve the problem of nuclear proliferation and promote regional stability are best achieved through diplomatic and political means.

“China hopes the relevant country will proceed on the basis of regional peace and stability, adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently in regard to the antimissile issue,” he said, according to a transcript posted on the Foreign Affairs Ministry website.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February and successfully launched a long-range rocket in December, both in violation of U.N. sanctions. It has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the United States, but military analysts say it does not have the know-how to create a nuclear warhead.

Pentagon officials said last week that the United States had informed China — North Korea’s neighbor, largest trading partner and closest ally — of the decision to increase missile defenses.

Officials also said they have shelved plans to deploy long-range interceptors in Poland as the last stage of Europe’s missile-defense system. But plans are still set to deploy shorter-range missiles in Poland and Romania, they said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday that the change in the Pentagon’s deployment of inceptors in Europe doesn’t affect Moscow’s opposition.

“This is not a concession to Russia and we do not see it as such,” Mr. Ryabkov said. “We will continue a dialogue and seek the signing of legally binding agreements that all elements of the U.S. missile-defense system are not aimed at Russian strategic nuclear forces.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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