The Defense Department will be deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system to Guam in the coming weeks “as a precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat,” the Pentagon announced today.

THAAD is a land-based missile defense system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, and an integrated fire control system.

“This deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. Territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there,” the Pentagon said.

“The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies, and our national interests.”

The announcement came shortly after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s first major policy speech at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.

Hagel did not mention North Korea in the speech, just “an array of other security challenges of varying vintage and degrees of risk to the United States.”

During the question-and-answer portion after the speech, Hagel was asked by a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employee about the crisis.

“They have nuclear capacity now. They have missile delivery capacity now,” Hagel responded. “And so as they have ratcheted up her bellicose, dangerous rhetoric — and some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan; and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened to the West Coast of the United States. As secretary of defense, and I think beginning with the president of the United States, and all of our leaders, we — we take those threats seriously. We have to take those threats seriously.”

“I think we have measured, responsible, serious responses to those threats,” he added.

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