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John Wayne's Holster: North Korean Missiles and US Missile Defense
John Wayne's Holster
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Monday, July 10, 2006

North Korean Missiles and US Missile Defense

Last week, North Korea test-fired seven missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Not coincidentally, the tests were conducted on the 4th of July in an effort to put pressure on the US to hold direct bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang. Kim Jong-il is hoping to use the threat of expanding his nuclear program to gain concessions from the US similar to those granted to Iran last month (such as a light-water reactor).

After seeing the results of NKs tests, I must admit that I am not impressed. In fact, the international display of impotence may have raised some doubts about NKs nuclear capabilities. Most of the missiles dropped out of the sky shortly after they were launched. In addition, the technology behind the missiles dates back to the 50’s and 60’s.

Military analysts familiar with NKs weapons program believe that they only have one site from which to launch the missiles. So rather than waiting for them to fall out of the sky, we can just as easily destroy their launch pad and let the missiles corrode in a Pyongyang hanger. In fact, Japan is considering just such a pre-emptive strike.

Although the tests are largely seen as failures, they do indicate a willingness of Kim’s part to use his weapons. And some of those weapons, though outdated, do have the capability of reaching the US (Alaska and Hawai`i). As such, Kim must be taken seriously.

It is widely believed that the US could shoot down any missiles that were headed our way. But could we? When asked about this, President Bush didn’t seem so confident, stating, “Our anti-ballistic missile systems are modest. They're new. It's new research. [We’re] testing them. And so I can't -- it's hard for me to give you a probability of success”. The President continued, “I think we had a reasonable chance of shooting it down. At least that's what the military commanders told me."

Wow, that sounds reassuring!

A reasonable chance? What exactly are our present capabilities at intercepting one of Kim’s missiles – should they not fail. Our Aegis destroyers carry missiles with roughly a 50% chance of intercepting a missile headed our way, and our ground-based interceptor missiles have about a 60% chance of success. It seems that our defense capabilities have not changed all that much since the Reagan-era! That is not good!

Although Kim’s nuclear capabilities do not appear to present an immediate threat to the US, it may not be long before they are. NK is continuing to enrich uranium, and Kim has already stated that more missile tests are planned. Chances are that NK learned something from the failures, and will attempt to remedy their problems. China and Russia may also be willing to assist him if they think it is in their best interest to do so. Their reluctance to go along with the UN Security council and place sanctions on North Korea seems to indicate that they think it is.

The US can not stand around with our hand in our pants waiting for China or Russia to come around. The time for action is now! The US must improve our missile defenses to eliminate our vulnerabilities. Is anyone on the Senate Armed Services Committee taking notes? John Warner, are you out there? We can not allow some maniacal leader teetering on the lunatic fringe to dictate our foreign policy or hold us hostage to his demands.

Although diplomacy is always the first best option, it seems that the time for diplomacy is running out!


At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Roy said...

Joe, I completely agree that we need to develop a missle defense system ASAP! I do not think that we should bomb there missle launch site. I believe that NK is more of a regional threat than a US threat. I would have to believe that China will ultimately realize that it is in their best interest to reign in NK. Especially when Japan begins to arm itself, which I think is another good idea. While I am admittedly a softy on China because I believe they would be a nice partner to help provide global security. China wants to keep expanding economically at all costs, a destablized Asia would definitely hurt them economically.


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