U.S. House passes defense bill calling for added missile defense amid N.K. threats

WASHINGTON-- The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a defense bill calling for increased spending on missile defense programs amid North Korea's evolving threats.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810) passed 344-81 to order US$696 billion for defense in the fiscal year 2018, including some $12.5 billion for missile defense programs.

"The Committee continues to be a strong supporter of a robust missile defense program given the increasing threats against our homeland and regional allies posed by North Korea, Iran and others," the House Committee on Armed Services said in a summary of the bill posted on its website. "The bill adds $2.5 billion above the President's budget request to meet critical missile defense needs. It also recognizes the increasing quantitative and qualitative nature of the ballistic missile threats we face as a nation."

The bill's passage follows the North's first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week. Experts say the missile could reach Alaska and parts of the mainland U.S. if further developed.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the committee, hailed the bill as a boost to the armed forces.

"This bill takes the necessary steps to begin to rebuild and reform our military, including billions in additional funds to begin to close the dangerous readiness gaps our troops are facing," he said in a statement. "In addition, it gives our troops their biggest pay raise in eight years, which they are entitled to under the law. It beefs up missile defense at a time when the threats continue to increase."

To become law, the bill must be combined with a Senate version later this year. After it is sent to the White House, President Donald Trump will also have the option of vetoing it.

In the Senate version introduced Monday by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the bill calls for further strengthening the alliance with South Korea, including through the ongoing deployment of the THAAD missile defense system to the country.

Meanwhile, a separate bill ordering sanctions on Russia and Iran has been stalled in the House due partly to Republicans' call to include sanctions against North Korea, according to news reports.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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