WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is working on an expanded missile defense policy that would address certain threats from Russia and China, departing from a previous strategy that focused nearly exclusively on rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran.
The new policy will still call for bolstered technology against rogue states, with a particular focus on weapons to intercept North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's missiles. But people familiar with the review say it will also mention the need to consider missile threats from Russia and China, a change from previous doctrine.
The document is in a draft form and could change.
Deliberations on the policy come as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens the United States with new weaponry, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile that he touted publicly for the first time during a presidential address on Thursday.
Russia's thousands of missiles easily could overwhelm existing U.S. missile defenses in the event of a full-scale war. Washington relies on the threat of its own vast nuclear arsenal to deter an attack from a global power.
As a result, the Pentagon isn't pursuing a shield against all missile threats from Russia and China. American defense planners abandoned such lofty goals after the Soviet Union's collapse. Rather, according to one U.S. official, the policy will more discretely look at ways the U.S. can better deal with burgeoning missile threats from Russia and China in regional theaters such as Europe and Asia, where the two countries' systems have alarmed the U.S. military.
The Pentagon so far sees "anything in the regional context as fair game," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials recognize that the missile technologies Russia and China are developing will probably end up in the arsenals of other countries in the future, meaning the policy must decide how to address them anyway.