Washington: The United States is in discussions with close ally Japan about expanding a missile defence system in Asia, the top US general said.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was on Thursday commenting on a Wall Street Journal report that the US 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 defence 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 defence is important to both of our nations," Dempsey told reporters at the start of a meeting with his visiting Japanese counterpart, General Shigeru Iwasaki, at the Pentagon.
Japan has worked closely with the US for several years on missile defence, and has both land- and sea-based missile launchers.
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 militarised 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 US.
The North conducted its latest long-range rocket launch in April, defying a UN ban.
The State Department said the US is taking a phased approach to missile defence in Asia, as it is in Europe and the Middle East.
"These are defensive systems. They don't engage unless missiles have been fired," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference. "In the case of Asian systems, they are designed against a missile threat from North Korea. They are not directed at China."
First Published: Friday, August 24, 2012, 15:12