Between a ROK and a Hard PlaceMay 12, 2017
The deployment of the THAAD ballistic missile defense system in Seongju County on the Korean Peninsula, operated and paid for by the United States, is to defend all of the United States military forces on the Peninsula from the North Korean nuclear ballistic missile threat. An over 50,000 American force deployed to bases and ports around South Korea are all, for the first time, defended from North Korean ballistic missiles and their nuclear capability.
The THAAD system can intercept complex and multiple targets in lower space and in the upper atmosphere, leveraging reentry burn for discrimination, in addition to its high fidelity X-band radar capability. Interception at high altitude on the terminal phase of an incoming missile increases the range of the defended area and defeats missile threats designed to disburse at lower altitudes. Current Patriot missile defense systems deployed by both the ROK and the United States on the Peninsula intercept at lower altitudes and defend much smaller areas.
The Korean population and all of its territory gets a natural and free benefit of ballistic missile defense of the Peninsula from the United States THAAD deployed there.
The election of the new South Korean President Moon Jae-in this week has added to speculation on the possible withdrawal of THAAD. The United States would not choose, nor would dismantle a deployed capability that protects and defends its forces from a real and clear threat of intent and capability. Setting precedent would mean all U.S. defensive systems protecting US troops and forces would be subject to removal which is unrealistic.
The North Korean threat is “a very significant, potentially existential threat to the United States that has to be addressed,” according to Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence. Further the Congressional Research Service expanded on the North Korea threat in its report On April 26, 2017 on “North Korea’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Programs.”
“North Korea has increased the number of its ballistic missile tests in recent years and tested with even greater frequency during 2016. These tests not only appear to have demonstrated growing success but, coupled with increased operational training exercises, suggest a pattern designed to strengthen the credibility of North Korea’s nuclear deterrent strategy in the Asia-Pacific region in several ways.” – Congressional Research Service Report
“North Korea appears to have demonstrated limited but growing success in its medium-range ballistic missile program and its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test program. Moreover, North Korea appears to be moving slowly toward solid rocket motors for its ballistic missiles. Solid fuel is a chemically more stable option that also allows for reduced reaction and reload times. Furthermore, mobile ballistic missiles, which North Korea is developing, and other measures also reduce U.S. detection abilities. These things together suggest that their test program may be more than just for show or to make a political statement—that it may be intended to increase the reliability, effectiveness, and survivability of their ballistic missile force.” – Congressional Research Service Report
With the clear and present danger of the North Korean threat and the raising of tensions between North Korea ND the region, THAAD in Korea is between a Rock and a hard place, but it isn’t going anywhere.