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Gates: U.S. can fend off North Korean missile

Jun. 9, 2009 - 04:23PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 9, 2009 - 04:23PM  |  
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If North Korea launches a long-range missile at the U.S., there is a "high probability" that U.S. missile defense interceptors will shoot it down, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

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If North Korea launches a long-range missile at the U.S., there is a "high probability" that U.S. missile defense interceptors will shoot it down, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

In an appearance before the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee in which he was questioned about whether proposed weaspons cuts would leave the U.S. unsafe, Gates said he doesn't think the U.S. needs a big boost in missile defense spending to respond to the growing threat from North Korea.

"I have confidence that, if North Korea launched a long-range missile in the direction of the United States, that we would have a high probability of being able to defend ourselves against it," Gates said.

The 30 planned silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, that are a key part of the U.S. interceptor force "are fully adequate to protect us against a North Korean threat for a number of years," Gates said.

If better interceptors are developed, they can be placed in existing silos, Gates said, adding that if more interceptors are needed, Greely has room for expansion.

It was Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who raised the issue, saying North Korea's recent testing of short-range missiles "has led to concerns about whether or not we're moving fast enough with a ground-based interceptor production line."

Gates said the 2010 budget includes funding for further testing and development at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

"I was just in Fort Greely last week, and it is an immensely capable system," Gates said.

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