Donald Trump calls for major expansion of U.S. missile defense

January 17, 2019

President Trump called for a major buildup of U.S. missile defense systems Thursday, saying the nation faces increased threats from Iran, Russia, North Korea and China.

In an address at the Pentagon, Mr. Trump outlined six major changes to U.S. missile defense, including prioritizing the defense of Americans “above all else.”

“As president, my first duty is the defense of our country,” Mr. Trump said. “I will accept nothing less for our nation that the most effective, cutting-edge missile defense systems.”

He said the new plan will include an emphasis on space-based defense technology and 20 new above-ground interceptors in Alaska to detect foreign missiles. He called it a program “that can shield every city in the United States.”

The president said the U.S. needs to stay “several steps ahead of those who would do us harm.”

“We will never negotiate away our right to do this,” he said. “The world is changing, and we’re going to change much faster than the rest of the world.”

Mr. Trump introduced a long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which says “the threat environment is markedly more dangerous than in years past and demands a concerted U.S. effort to improve existing capabilities for both homeland and regional missile defense.”

It identifies threats from:

North Korea: “While a possible new avenue to peace now exists with North Korea, it continues to pose an extraordinary threat and the United States must remain vigilant.”

Iran: “Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and continues the development of technologies applicable to intercontinental range missiles capable of threatening the United States. Its desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM, and progress in its space program could shorten the pathway to an ICBM.”

Russia: “Russia considers the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to be the principal threat to its contemporary revisionist geopolitical ambitions and routinely conducts exercises involving simulated nuclear strikes against the U.S. homeland.”

China: “China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region and reorder the region to its advantage. Offensive missiles play an increasingly prominent role in China’s military modernization, its coercive threats, and efforts to counter U.S. military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific.”

Neither the president nor the report said how much the upgrades would cost taxpayers. Missile defense spending increased in the current fiscal year about 25 percent, to $9.9 billion, amid concerns over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The Missile Defense Review calls for a plan to study capabilities such as space-based interceptors and directed-energy weapons.

The report, commissioned in 2017, is the first official update to missile defense policy in nine years. It comes as the president is withdrawing the U.S. from a nuclear treaty with Russia on shorter-range nuclear weapons, with Mr. Trump saying Moscow has cheated on the agreement while the U.S. has been limited by it.

Update hourly