WASHINGTON — The United States is in discussions with close ally Japan about expanding a missile defense system in Asia, the top U.S. general said Thursday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was commenting on a Wall Street Journal report that the United States is discussing positioning an early warning radar in southern Japan, supplementing one already in place in the country's north, to contain threats from North Korea and to counter China's military.
The State Department, however, said the missile defense system is not directed against China. Dempsey said no decisions have been reached on expanding the radar.
"But it's certainly a topic of conversation because missile defense is important to both of our nations," Dempsey told reporters at the start of a meeting with his visiting Japanese counterpart, Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, at the Pentagon.
North Korea's ballistic missiles are considered a threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region because of the risk of conflict erupting on the divided and heavily militarized Korean peninsula, and because of the secretive North's nuclear weapons program. The long-range rockets it is developing have been test-fired over Japan and potentially could reach the United States.