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WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers are seeking to prohibit the U.S. from removing missile defense equipment from East Asia, even if the threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea is eliminated.

The legislative proposal is a response to remarks last month by Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. could reduce its heightened defense posture in the region if North Korea abandoned its nuclear weapons.

That drew criticism from Republicans who are also concerned about China's military power.

The wording is included in a defense spending bill being introduced by a Republican-led House panel that oversees U.S. nuclear and missile defense assets. Its chances of becoming law are uncertain.

The president could waive the requirement on national security grounds, and it wouldn't apply to Aegis missile defense systems on Navy destroyers and cruisers.

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