LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The US government is taking threats by North Korea seriously.

The Pentagon Friday ordered a major buildup of new missile interceptors to be built along the west coast.  New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the plan today. “North Korea, in particular, made advances in its capabilities and engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations,” says Hagel.

The interceptors are designed to blast incoming nuclear missiles out of the sky before they get near populated areas.

KCAL9’s Mike Wait reports on the credibility of the threat and if the government might be doing too little, too late.

A test interceptor was launched six weeks ago from Vandenberg Air Force base, just outside Santa Barbara. It proved to be quite effective.

USC Professor David Kang, an expert in North Korean nuclear capabilities says the US is smart to put the interceptors in place — even if he believes North Korea is still years away from being a credible threat. “Much of this is political theater,” said Kang, “because they have not proven the capability to actually reach the United States.”

The Pentagon announced a total of 14 more missile interceptors — several at Fort Greely, Alaska and at least four more at Vandenberg.

Experts believe North Korea might have the capability to reach the US with a missile by 2016. Some of the new interceptors won’t be operational until 2017.

Professor Kang sees posturing on both sides. “Both sides are ratcheting up the rhetoric. My sense is there is a fairly typical cycle of intense rhetoric, and then a period when both sides just pause, then, as long as both sides continue to pause,  they begin to dial [the rhetoric] down a bit.”

Experts also believe North Korea is increasing the bellicose talk because the US has joined China in implementing sanctions.


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