WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department plans to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptor system to Guam in the coming weeks to defend the U.S. territory against a possible North Korean missile attack, the Pentagon announced April 3.

In October, the THAAD system had its first-ever intercept of a medium-range missile. In recent weeks, North Korea has renounced the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, closed its borders to South Korean workers, severed a diplomatic hotline with Seoul, and threatened to launch missiles at U.S. targets. Pyongyang has been steadily escalating its war rhetoric since a satellite launch in December and nuclear test in February drew widespread condemnation and tighter sanctions.

“The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations,” a Pentagon release said.

The THAAD system includes a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar and an integrated fire control system. Lockheed Martin is the THAAD prime contractor.

“Our government is doing the right thing for the right reasons at the right time,” Riki Ellison, chairman and founder of Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hinted during a speech at the National Defense University here April 3 that the Missile Defense Agency was among those agencies that may need to be scaled back.

“Despite good efforts and intentions, it is still not clear that every option has been exercised or considered to pare back the world’s largest back-office,” he said, according to a copy of the speech. “Prior efficiency campaigns yielded substantial savings from the services, and some from the DoD-elements known as the ‘Fourth Estate,’ which consists, as you all know, of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Combatant Commands and the defense agencies and field activities — the Missile Defense Agency as well as those that provide health care, intelligence, and contracting support. We need to relook at funding for these activities, which won’t be easy.”

He did not offer further details later in the speech.

Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...