Pentagon: Anti-missile systems to remain in Guam

There are currently no plans to shut down the anti-missile weapon, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), on the southern Pacific island, Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, head of U.S. Army-Pacific, said Monday.  

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the weapon sent to Guam in May, as part of the Pentagon's ramp-up in the Pacific in response to threats from North Korea. 

The weapon, designed to take out incoming missile threats in mid-flight, was sent to Guam as a "precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture" against possible missile strikes by North Korea, according to a Department of Defense statement at the time. 

While Pyongyang has hit the pause button in its aggressive rhetoric toward Washington and its regional allies, Defense leaders have decided to keep the THAAD weapon on station. 

The weapon's deployment "is conditions-based" Wiercinski told reporters at the Pentagon, indicating a concern within the DOD that North Korea could again ratchet up its war rhetoric and take military action against the U.S. or its allies. 

That said, the three-star Army general did note there have been no orders to send out additional THAAD batteries in Guam or to other locations in the Pacific. 

There was also no word on whether the Navy had decided to call the USS Decatur and USS McCain back to base. 

Both Arleigh Burke-class Navy destroyers armed with the Aegis missile defense system, which is essentially a sea-based version of the THAAD anti-missile weapon, into the Western Pacific, as part of a "missile defense mission" in the region, the DOD said in May. 

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced it had completed its annual Foal Eagle military exercise with South Korea. 

The military drills, which began in early March, sparked the most recent game of military one-upmanship between Pyongyang and Washington that seemingly brought the region to the brink of war. 

But Wiercinski downplayed those tensions on Monday, saying Pyongyang's latest round of saber rattling was part of the country's "cyclical provocation" in the region that has long been part of Noth Korea's foreign policy. 

While noting this most recent provocation by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was more "tenuous" than previous ones, "it appears the rhetoric has died down," the three-star general added.