US defence officials are looking for sites on the country’s west coast to deploy new anti-missile systems, two congressmen have claimed.
The Missile Defence Agency is considering several locations to install a new Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) interceptor system similar to the one which protects South Korea against a potential attack from the North, according to congressmen Mike Rogers and Adam Smith.
It comes amid renewed fears over the nuclear ambitions of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who earlier this week ordered the test of a new long-range missile said to be capable of striking the entire US mainland.
Mr Rogers, who chairs the US Strategic Forces Subcommittee which oversees missile defence, did not say which west coast locations were under consideration but revealed several sites were “competing” for the missile defence installations.
He added: “It’s just a matter of the location, and the Missile Defence Agency making a recommendation as to which site meets their criteria for location, but also the environmental impact.”
Mr Rogers (Republican) and Mr Smith (Democrat) both said the number of THAAD systems that may ultimately be deployed had yet to be determined.
Missile Defence Agency deputy director Jon Hill denied the claims, saying he had “received no tasking to site the THAAD system on the west coast”.
Meanwhile, THAAD developer Lockheed Martin declined to comment on specific deployments.
A spokesperson added that the defence contractor was “ready to support the Missile Defence Agency and the United States government in their ballistic missile defence efforts”.
THAAD is a ground-based regional system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.
The US has nine THAAD systems, two of which are deployed in South Korea and on the US territory of Guam, a Pacific island.
The current locations of the other systems are not disclosed, but some THAAD missiles are known to be based at Fort Bliss, Texas.
In June, the Missile Defence Agency told Congress it planned to deliver 52 more THAAD interceptor missiles to the US Army between October 2017 and September 2018, bringing total deliveries to 210 since May 2011.
A month later, the US tested THAAD systems and shot down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile.