The U.S. military has stepped up discussions on converting its Aegis missile defense test site in Hawaii into a combat-ready facility that would bolster American defenses against ballistic missile attacks, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
The proposal, which has been discussed sporadically for several years, was given fresh impetus by North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and by recent strides in China’s missile technology capabilities, said current and former U.S. military officials, congressional aides and other sources.
A Chinese official in Washington suggested that Beijing would see such a U.S. move as counter-productive to relations.
Aegis, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp for use on U.S. Navy destroyers, is among the most advanced U.S. missile defense systems, integrating radars, software, displays, weapons launchers and missiles.
Setting up its land version — Aegis Ashore — in Hawaii and linking it with Aegis destroyers would add a permanent missile defense site to the Pacific, providing an extra layer of protection for the U.S. islands and the West Coast at a time when North Korea is improving its missile capabilities.
Ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California provide the current defense for Hawaii and the continental United States against missile attacks.
The Navy also relies on deploying Aegis-equipped destroyers based on U.S. intelligence warnings about imminent threats. North Korea’s development of mobile missile launchers has made it more difficult to predict launches in advance. Read more
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