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US Military 'bolstering' defense of Guam against NKorea missile

The US Department of Defense is "bolstering" multi-layered capabilities to defend Guam from the threat of a missile attack by North Korea.

“We will continue bolstering them to keep pace of the threat out of North Korea,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis, when he appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, Guam time.

He made the statement in response to a question from Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo.

Bordallo said while Guam appreciates the Pentagon's deployment of the land-based missile defense system to Guam – called the terminal high altitude area defense, or THAAD, system – she asked what other layers of missile defense systems are being provided or developed in defense of the island.

The House Armed Services Committee hearing was about the nuclear arms race, which Mattis said poses a threat from potential adversaries China, Russia and rogue state North Korea.

Mattis said Guam also is being protected by missile destroyers and other anti-missile deterrents aboard ships off Guam and Japan.

Ships off Japan can be quickly mobilised to shoot down a missile fired from North Korea, Mattis said.

Guam officials, after being briefed by military representatives last year, were told there's a 14- to 18-minute window to intercept an incoming missile from North Korea that may be aimed toward Guam.

In the hearing, Mattis also described that the nuclear arms race has been dominated by the development of multiple nuclear weapons systems by Russia, China and North Korea over the past eight years. They've developed 34 new land-, sea- and air-based systems, according to a chart that was part of his testimony.

In that same time frame, the United States has developed only one new system to launch a nuclear defensive weapon, via the F-35 fighter aircraft, Mattis stated.

“Ensuring Guam's security is of the utmost importance and today I spoke directly with Defense Secretary Mattis about the need to maintain adequate defenses on Guam given the threats posed by North Korea," Bordallo stated.

“I appreciate the secretary's recognition of the systems already in place to protect the island – including THAAD and AEGIS weapons systems – and his commitment to enhancing our defensive capabilities as needs arise.”

In the same hearing, Bordallo also indicated that "the people of Guam" are proud to host bomber aircraft, including the B-2 stealth aircraft and older B-52s, as part of an air-power deterrent against potential enemies.

She said Guam is the westernmost part of the United States and is a strategic location for the U.S. military and the nation's defense.

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