The Pentagon has deployed a new missile defense system to Guam following threats of an attack from North Korea, which Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel classified on Wednesday as "a real and clear danger."
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) System, which defends against ballistic missiles, will arrive in Guam in the coming weeks as a "precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat," according to a Defense Department release. The isolated island in the Pacific is home to U.S. Naval Base Guam, providing a key stopover point for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. It is roughly 2,000 miles from North Korea, which has tested long-range missiles as recently as December 2012.
The land-based system involves a truck-mounted launcher, a tracking radar, a fire control system and interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming weapons such as Scud missiles. THAADs were first deployed in 2008.
"This deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. Territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there," the release says.
Hagel told a room full of students at the National Defense University on Wednesday that North Korea's bellicose rhetoric represents serious threats.
"They present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan," he said. "We take those threats seriously. We have to take those threats seriously."
"It only takes being wrong once," Hagel added. "And I don't want to be the secretary of defense who was wrong once."
This most recent announcement follows a string of escalating moves from the Pentagon, including sending B-2 Spirit bombers to fly over South Korea on March 28, and deploying two F-22 Raptor stealth jets to a South Korean base where they remain on display as of Tuesday afternoon.