Verne Strickland Blogmaster / March 16, 2013
Interceptors had been strongly opposed by Russians. Deal could lead to more talks on nuclear arms reducations. U.S. always loses in those 'deals'.
Mr Hagel said the threat had "matured" and that the US commitment to Nato missile defence remained "ironclad".
The interceptors had been strongly opposed by the Russian government.
It complained that they would be able to stop Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and undermine its nuclear deterrent.
The US has always insisted that the missile shield was intended to protect against attacks by Iran and North Korea.
Analysts said Friday's announcement could open the door to another round of talks between the US and Russia on nuclear arms reductions.
'Shifting resources' The dropping of the fourth and final phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for missile defence was announced quietly at a news conference, reports the BBC's Matt Wells in Washington.
Almost as an aside, Mr Hagel confirmed that in order to fund 14 new Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) in Alaska by 2017 to guard against increased threats from North Korea, the SM-3 IIB programme - a land-based standard missile - would be "restructured", our correspondent adds.
"The purpose was to add to the protection of the US homeland already provided by our current GBIs against missile threats from the Middle East," Mr Hagel said.
Chuck Hagel US Defence SecretaryLet me emphasise the strong and continued commitment of the United States to Nato missile defence”
Mr Hagel promised that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) allies in Europe would see no difference to their level of protection as a result, with the first three phases of the EPAA providing coverage of all of their territory as planned by 2018.
"Let me emphasise the strong and continued commitment of the United States to Nato missile defence. That commitment remains ironclad."
Mr Hagel made no reference to Russia's objections. Officials in Moscow had hinted that they would not consider further nuclear arms cuts if the SM-3 interceptors were deployed.
Our correspondent says defence spending is being squeezed in the US, and the Pentagon believes tough decisions have to be made about where the main threat lies.
"Cancelling phase 4 opens the door to another round of US-Russian nuclear arms reductions,'' Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association, told the Associated Press. "We give up nothing since phase 4 was not panning out anyway. This is a win-win for the United States."
The decision was, however, criticised by Republicans in the Congress.
"President Obama's reverse course decision will cost the American taxpayer more money and upset our allies," said Representative Mike Rogers, who chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees ballistic missile defence.