The US Department of Defense (DoD) will send two additional ballistic-missile defence destroyers to Japan by 2017 to counter North Korean provocations, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said.
The announcement was made by Hagel during a joint press conference held in Tokyo with the Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, when a range of alliance issues were discussed, including the threat posed by North Korea.
Hagel said that the US is planning to deploy two Aegis ballistic missile defence ships to Japan in response to North Korea's pattern of provocative and destabilising actions, including recent missile launches, which were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
"This deployment follows our October announcement to establish a second missile-defense radar site in Kyoto Prefecture and my decision last year to increase ground-based interceptors in Alaska," Hagel said.
The two ships will bring the total number of US ballistic-missile defence destroyers in Japan to seven.
In addition to strengthening the US-Japan alliance, the decision to bolster the naval presence will enhance the ability of the US to defend its homeland and Japan from North Korea's ballistic-missile threat.
"We encourage and support that effort and believe the decisions made by the Japanese government on behalf of the Japanese people will continue to enhance and strengthen this important alliance between our two countries," Hagel added.
Key challenges in the East China Sea were also discussed during the meeting, and Hagel expressed an interest in speaking with the Chinese regarding common interests and strengthening military-to-military relationships, and opportunities for engagement with neighbours such as Japan and South Korea.
Image: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera during a meeting in Tokyo. Photo: DoD courtesy of Erin A Kirk-Cuomo.