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Washington (AFP) March 22, 2013
The United States is dedicated to defending Europe from missile attacks despite a US decision to abandon the final phase of a planned anti-missile system, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said Friday.
In a phone call to Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, Hagel conveyed his condolences over the death of a Polish soldier in Afghanistan this week and voiced his "appreciation for Poland's understanding" over changes to a European missile defense plan, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The US missile defense plan for Europe envisages a powerful radar in Turkey, SM-3 interceptors aboard naval ships in the Mediterranean and dozens of interceptors based in Poland and Romania.
But budget pressures and the threat posed by North Korea's missile program led Hagel to announce last week that Washington was scrapping the fourth and final stage of the system, which would have deployed a more advanced version of the SM-3 interceptor in Poland and Romania within 10 years.
Instead, the Pentagon plans to add 14 interceptors to missile defenses in Alaska at a cost of $1 billion.
In his call to Siemoniak, Hagel said the changing threat from North Korea required a "reallocation" of funding but he "reassured Poland of the United States' continuing commitment to European missile defense," spokesman George Little said in a statement.
"The secretary reiterated that plans for phases one through three remain unchanged."
After the US announcement last week, Poland said Wednesday that it would spend 33.6 billion euros ($43.3 bn) to set up its own missile shield.
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