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Buried in the news made late Friday made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the U.S. planned to deploy missile interceptors in Alaska and California was the equally important news that the Obama administration was going to stop long-held plans to fully deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

The Pentagon insisted that the change in deployment had nothing to do with trying to assuage Russia and everything with the threat from North Korea, which in recent months has sent a long-range missile into space, detonated a nuclear device, and, last week, sent a barrage ofmissiles into the Sea of Japan.

But the issue of the missile shield has long been seen as a sign of NATO’s commitment to protect Europe and former Soviet satellite states against a potentially belligerent Russia, which has made the anti-missile deployment a key target in their diplomatic efforts with the U.S.

The U.S. plan had called for interceptors in Poland and Romania, complemented by deployed U.S. naval ships outfitted in the Mediterranean. Hagel said the first three phases would be fully implemented, but the fourth, the deployment of a large interceptor warhead, would not go forward.

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