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Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
U.S. plans to expand Asia missile defenses
WASHINGTON — The United States is in discussions with Japan about expanding a missile defense system in Asia, the top U.S. general said Thursday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was commenting on a Wall Street Journal report that the U.S. is discussing positioning an early warning radar in southern Japan, supplementing one already in place in the country's north, to contain threats from North Korea and to counter China's military.
The State Department, however, said the missile defense system is not directed against China.
Dempsey said no decisions have been reached on expanding the radar. "But it's certainly a topic of conversation because missile defense is important to both of our nations," he told reporters at the start of a meeting with his visiting counterpart from the Self-Defense Forces, Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, at the Pentagon.
Japan has worked closely with the U.S. for several years on missile defense, and has both land- and sea-based missile launchers.
North Korea's ballistic missiles are considered a threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region because of the risk of conflict erupting on the divided and heavily militarized Korean Peninsula, and because of the secretive North's nuclear weapons program.
The long-range rockets it is developing have been test-fired over Japan and potentially could reach the U.S.
North Korea carried out its latest long-range rocket launch in April, defying a U.N. ban. The North said the launch was intended to send an observation satellite into space, but it drew international condemnation as the rocket technology is similar to that used for ballistic missiles. The rocket disintegrated soon after takeoff.
U.S. strategists also worry about China's military buildup, including its missile capabilities. The U.S. wants to enhance its long-standing military presence in Asia as part of a rebalancing of its forces after a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. China views this as part of a strategy to contain its rise.
To avoid misunderstandings, the U.S. has sought to boost exchanges with China's military, including a visit this week by the People's Liberation Army's deputy chief of general staff, Lt. Gen. Cai Yingting.
Cai is visiting U.S. Army bases in Texas, Missouri and Hawaii, as well as the Pentagon, in order to "see army capabilities and discuss issues of mutual interest with senior military and defense leaders," Pentagon spokeswoman Cathy Wilkinson said, adding, "Transparency and reciprocity are the foundation of a sustained, reliable and meaningful military-to-military relationship."