WASHINGTON The United States should expand its missile defence systems given missile testing by North Korea and Iran, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said on Monday.
The comments by Republican Representative Mac Thornberry followed new U.S. sanctions against Iran after the Persian country's recent ballistic missile test. The United States is also concerned North Korea may be preparing to test a new ballistic missile.
Thornberry's position was a sign of support in Congress for military spending to counter the threat from North Korea after U.S. President Donald Trump on the presidential campaign trail raised doubts about future spending to defend allies.
"If you look at what's happening around the world, I would mention Iran and North Korea, the importance of missile defence is increasing," Thornberry told reporters at a news briefing.
He said there was a need to provide more systems and to improve missile defence technology. "Actors around the world are building missiles that are harder to stop," he added.
Jim Mattis, President Donald Trump's defence secretary, told South Korea last week that Washington and Seoul would stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" to face the threat from North Korea.
Both South Korea and the United States have recommitted to plans to deploy a U.S. missile defence system in South Korea later this year.
South Korea and Japan have worried Trump might follow through on threats to cut back on U.S. military support to them.
One of their concerns has been whether Washington would commit to installing the $800 million advanced missile defence system in South Korea. Mattis committed to the system last week. Congress controls U.S. spending policy.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Andrew Hay)