The U.S. will deploy two additional ballistic missile defense destroyers to Japan by 2017 as part of an effort to bolster protection from North Korean missile threats, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday.
Speaking to at a news conference following a meeting with Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Hagel said they discussed the threat posed by Pyongyang. He said the two ships are in response to North Korea’s “pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions” that violate U.N. resolutions and also will provide more protection to the U.S. from those threats.
In unusually forceful remarks about China, Hagel called the Asian nation a “great power” and said that when he travels to China later this week he will tell its officials that they must have respect for their neighbors. Japan and China have been at odds over territorial claims and other issues.
“With this power comes new and wider responsibilities as to how you use that power” and how to employ military might, Hagel said, adding that he looks forward to an honest, straightforward dialogue with the Chinese.
The announcement of the deployments of additional destroyers to Japan came as tensions with North Korea spiked again, with Pyongyang continuing to threaten additional missile and nuclear tests. North and South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other’s waters in late March in the most recent flare-up.
On Friday, North Korea accused the U.S. of being “hell-bent on regime change” and warned that any maneuvers with that intention will be viewed as a “red line” that will result in countermeasures. Pyongyang’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Ri Tong Il, also said his government “made it very clear we will carry out a new form of nuclear test” but refused to provide details.
The two additional ships would bring the total to seven U.S. ballistic missile defense warships in Japan, and it continues U.S. efforts to increase its focus on the Asia Pacific.