The United States will deploy effective missile-defense systems in the Asia-Pacific region despite Chinese protests as long as North Korea continues to develop and test ballistic missiles, a senior State Department official said Thursday. Speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute breakfast on Capitol Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Frank Rose said the defensive systems serve as a deterrent and a piece of the strategy meant to bring North Korea back to effective negotiations. Japan and South Korea, Rose said, are both improving their defensive capabilities. In February, he said, the US and South Korean governments formally agreed to explore the viability of deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system at the earliest possible date in response to the evolving threat, but haven’t made a final decision on whether the deployment will actually occur. The allied governments have discussed positioning THAAD on the Korean peninsula before. Rose said China has voiced concern the THAAD system will impact its strategic nuclear deterrent, but the reasoning is flawed. He said the THAAD system’s single-stage interceptors would not have the range or capability to intercept Chinese ICBMs headed to the United States and its radar would not enhance the US’ capability in the region. Rice said the Japanese defense minister recently said the island nation was also considering acquiring the THAAD system.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.