North Korea Forces U.S. Military To Consider Deploying Anti-Missile Systems On The West Coast: Report

THAAD is an anti-missile defense system designed to intercept short and medium-range missiles. Getty Images

As North Korea continues to prod the international community, the Department of Defense is scouting for sites along the West Coast to deploy new anti-missile defense systems, two Congressmen told Reuters on Saturday.

The new defense lineup would probably include the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missiles, which are designed to shoot down short and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their reentry phase.

According to Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama, who heads the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which oversees missile defense, it's only a matter of time before the Missile Defense Agency decides where and when to deploy THAAD on the West Coast.

"It's just a matter of the location, and the MDA making a recommendation as to which site meets their criteria for location, but also the environmental impact," Rogers told Reuters at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday.

Rogers' comments were confirmed by Congressman Adam Smith of Washington, who told Reuters that the Defense Department was indeed considering installing THAAD anti-missile systems along the West Coast.

According to Reuters, both Congressmen "said the number of sites that may ultimately be deployed had yet to be determined."

The Missile Defense Agency did not confirm the Defense Departments' plans to deploy THAAD along the West Coast.

"The Missile Defense Agency has received no tasking to site the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System on the West Coast," MDA Deputy Director Rear Admiral Jon Hill‎ said in a statement.

Currently, the United States has nine THAAD anti-missile systems deployed across the globe. Recently, a THAAD system deployed in Alaska successfully intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile launched in Hawaii.

According to officials, this marked the first time a THAAD system had to defend against an intermediate-range missile.

"The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat bolsters the country's defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries around the globe and contributes to the broader strategic deterrence architecture," MDA said in a statement.

The THAAD defense system, designed by Lockheed Martin, is designed to intercept ballistic missiles on their final descent. First, a radar detects a threat and identifies it. An interceptor missile is then fired off from a truck-mounted launcher, which destroys the incoming missile.

In October, the U.S. deployed a crew of operators from Fort Bliss, Texas, to South Korea to man its new THAAD system. Both China and North Korea, as well as many South Korean, criticized the move for escalating the prospects of war in the region and further endangering South Korean citizens.

According to Reuters, the MDA says it plans to deliver 52 more THAAD systems to the U.S. Army by September 2018. That would bring total THAAD deployments to 210 since May 2011.