U.S. to Strengthen Missile Defenses in South Korea

The United States will deploy new missile defense batteries in South Korea (searchthis autumn as part of a $11 billion upgrade on the Korean peninsula, the military said Friday.

The U.S. 8th Army's new 35th Air Defense Brigade (search), located at Fort Bliss, Texas, and equipped with Patriot Advanced Capability 2 and 3 systems, will be deployed to South Korea, the U.S. and South Korean Combined Forces Command in Seoul said in a news release.

The PAC 2 and 3 missile systems are designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and enemy aircraft. There are already several batteries fielded in South Korea.

Two batteries will be added at Gwangju Air Base and the 35th Air Defense Brigade headquarters will be located at Osan Air Base with about 500 soldiers, the release said.

Last September, North Korea (searchdenounced the deployment of a PAC-3 defense system in South Korea, accusing the United States of building up arms to invade the communist North.

Pyongyang said it was "part of the escalating military confrontation moves of the U.S. which drive the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war."

Tensions have run high over North Korea's suspected development of nuclear weapons. North Korea also has an aggressive missile development program.

The United States keeps 37,000 soldiers in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The new missile defense systems are part of a $11 billion package to improve U.S. military readiness on the divided peninsula. The overhaul includes swift-action units, high-tech air surveillance and high-speed transport for troops based in Japan.