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."