(Adds comments on budget)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON Feb 6 The United States should
invest more in missile defense given missile testing by North
Korea and Iran, the chairman of the House of Representatives
Armed Services Committee said on Monday.
The comments by Republican Representative Mac Thornberry
followed new U.S. sanctions against Iran after Tehran's recent
ballistic missile tests. Washington is also
concerned North Korea may be preparing to test a new ballistic
Thornberry's position was a sign of support in Congress for
military spending to counter North Korea after President Donald
Trump during the 2016 election campaign raised doubts about
future U.S. funding to defend allies like South Korea and Japan.
"If you look at what's happening around the world, I would
mention Iran and North Korea, the importance of missile defense
is increasing," Thornberry said at a roundtable discussion with
He said there was a need both to provide more systems and to
improve missile defense technology. "Actors around the world are
building missiles that are harder to stop," he added.
Jim Mattis, Trump's defense 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 an $800 million advanced missile defense system
in South Korea later this year.
More broadly, Thornberry also said he expected an end to
strict limits on defense spending now that Republicans control
both Congress and the White House.
The 2011 Budget Control Act imposed across-the-board cuts on
government spending, and under former President Barack Obama, a
Democrat, congressional Democrats were able to ward off
Republican pushes to increase the defense budget without also
raising spending on non-defense items such as education and
"I think we have a tremendous opportunity to do the right
thing," Thornberry said. "There's more of the federal budget
being looked at, in play, if you will, than has been the case
for many years."
The Trump administration is expected within weeks to send
Congress a request for a supplemental bill to increase defense
spending this year.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Andrew Hay)