The US military is considering turning its Aegis missile defence test site in Hawaii into a combat-ready facility to protect against ballistic missile attacks.
Anonymous military sources have claimed that although the proposal has been in discussion for several years, it has recently gained fresh impetus following North Korean nuclear tests earlier this month.
Aegis was originally developed for use on US Navy destroyers and is among the most advanced US missile defence systems, integrating radars, software, displays, weapons launchers and missiles.
To make the Hawaii site ‘combat ready’, more personnel would be needed, live missiles would be stockpiled and security increased.
The total cost of the upgrades is estimated to be approximately $41m (£29m).
However, a Chinese official in Washington suggested that Beijing would see such a move by the US as counter-productive to relations.
Zhu Haiquan, who works at the Chinese Embassy, said Beijing believed the nuclear proliferation issue would be best resolved diplomatically.
"All measures seeking to increase military capacities will only intensify antagonism and will not help to solve the problem," he said.
"China hopes the relevant country will proceed on the basis of regional peace and stability, adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently in regard to the anti-missile issue."
Any possible expansion of Hawaii’s missile systems could spark local protests which have occurred in similar situations in the past.
Riki Ellison, who heads the non-profit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said the new Aegis installation would in effect give the US military three chances to shoot down a missile aimed at Hawaii, up from one currently.
"If you have the assets on the island, why not use them to protect against possible missile attacks from North Korea?" Ellison said.
Following its nuclear missile test on 6 January, North Korea also showed footage of it successfully launching a missile from a submarine.
However, detailed analysis of the video showed that it was most probably faked.