The Compelling Case for Missile Defense

Dear Members and Friends,

On the shores of one of the most western points of the United States looking over the horizon of the Pacific Ocean facing west, there is concern in this community and state over North Korea and its upcoming long range ballistic missile firing. This concern gravitates within the western pacific region and our United States that border the Pacific. 3 years ago on July 4th, North Korea launched a long range ballistic missile that failied within minutes after its launch, but its headings and direction before it failed, was towards the state of Hawaii and over the Pacific Ocean.

Yesterday, in Washington D.C. at our nation’s capital a significant U.S. Senate hearing and testimony given by our country’s top military commanders in the pacific area of responsibility; United States Pacific Command Admiral Keating, United States Strategic Command, General Chilton and the United States Forces Korea General Sharp. Clarified the threat from a North Korea Long Range Ballistic Missile believed to be on and around April 4th, 2009.

March 19, 2009
Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the United States Pacific Command, United States Strategic Command, and United States Forces Korea

Testifying

Admiral Timothy J. Keating, USN
Commander, United States Pacific Command

General Kevin P. Chilton, USAF
Commander, United States Strategic Command

General Walter L. Sharp, USA
Commander, United Nations Command and Republic of Korea/United States Combined Forces Command
Commander, United States Forces Korea

Excerpts

Senator BILL NELSON (D-FL): OK. Let me ask Admiral Keating and General Sharp. Since you all are commanders that are facing many of these short and medium range potential threats from North Korea, would you agree that you don’t have sufficient missile defense capabilities to meet your operational needs, to defend against those existing short and medium range missiles?

Admiral KEATING: Senator, we could provide for the defense of American citizens and American territory in the Pacific Command AOR with the assets that we have. We could obviously use more assets, in that it is — we are not at a one-to-one ratio. They have more potential offensive weapons than we have extent defensive weapons.

General SHARP: Sir, North Korea has got over 800 missiles. We have currently on the peninsula 64 Patriots from the U.S. And the Republic of Korea just purchased 24. And we’re starting to incorporate those into the defense also.

Could we use more? Yes. We are working hard to make sure that the ballistic missile defense of the Patriots are properly linked together, that we have the intelligence to properly queue (ph), and that we have them positioned at the right places to be able to defend our most critical warfighting assets.

But it does leave other areas uncovered, and we could — both we and the Republic of Korea — could use more, and we’re working hard at that.

Senator BILL NELSON (D-FL): So, for the two of you, your highest missile defense priority is fielding effective capabilities to meet your operational needs.

Admrial KEATING: Yes, sir.

General SHARP: Yes, sir.
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Senator LIEBERMAN (I-CT): ….. Assuming it is a Taepo Dong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile, how close could it come to U.S. territory, including, obviously, Hawaii and Alaska? General Chilton?

General CHILTON: Well, first of all, Senator, this is all theoretical …

Senator LIEBERMAN (I-CT): Sure.

General CHILTON: … Estimations, because they’ve not successfully flown this version of the missile. But we worry about defending — its ability to reach the West Coast of the United States, as well as the Hawaiian Islands, and of course Alaska.

Senator LIEBERMAN (I-CT): OK, so that’s serious. Admiral Keating, let me ask you this question. Based on the current state of our missile defense, if the North Koreans did fire a missile, an intercontinental ballistic missile, that was aimed at the United States, what’s the probability that we could knock it down?

Admiral KEATING: We have a high probability, Senator
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Senator MCCAIN (R-AZ): I guess I’m talking about that capability along with the nuclear weapon. Does that pose a long-term threat to America’s security in your view.

KEATING: That would pose a long-term threat. Yes, sir.

Senator MCCAIN (R-AZ): A short-term threat?

Admiral KEATING: It could be a threat as early as four April.

Senator MCCAIN (R-AZ): If a decision was made, do we have the capability to shoot that down?

Admiral KEATING: The United States has the capability to do so. Yes, sir.
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It is clear and under oath from our pacific and strategic military commanders that they require missile defense capabilities to defend the United States and their areas of responsibility. To not listen to our military commanders and to deny the funding and support for continuing to field and develop these missile defense systems to protect our nation, our allies, our armed forces, and our citizens especially in the states of Hawaii and Alaska is irresponsible and puts them at great risk.

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