Yesterday the North Korean regime (DPRK) resumed test-firing of its ballistic missile systems, conducting research and development in order to gain more reliability and lethality with its missile technologies. These missile systems are a direct threat to the Republic of Korea, Japan, and a significant number of American forces deployed in both of these countries (approximately 50,000 in Japan, and around 28,500 in South Korea). This situation marks the first major violation of United Nations’ Security Council resolution restrictions by North Korea since President Biden took office in January of this year, and Kim Jung Un is sending a direct signal to the United States.
“North Korea’s continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs constitutes an extraordinary threat to the United States and our allies and partners in the region.” — Gen. Robert B. Abrams, Commander United States Forces Korea (USFK), on March 10, 2021, before the House Armed Services Committee.
“We remain clear-eyed about the persistent challenges we face today and in the future. North Korea continues the development of nuclear and advanced missile systems, cyber capability, as well as other conventional and emerging asymmetric military technologies. We will continue to ensure a strong and effective deterrence posture so the North Koreans never misjudge our role, never misjudge our commitment and our capability to respond as an alliance.” — Gen. Abrams, March 10, 2021.
The Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) put forward in 2018 by the USINDOPACOM Commander to rapidly develop, field, and deploy vital ballistic missile defense systems, was initiated by Gen. Vincent Brooks, the former Commander of USKF. There are two Patriot battalions in place out of 15 worldwide, and one THAAD battery assigned to the 8th Army. The JEON is in its second year and is due to be completed next year, in partnership with the Missile Defense Agency and the Army. The JEON force-multiplies the areas of the Korean Peninsula defended by the deployed THAAD system, against the North Korean ballistic missile threat — a threat that was demonstrated yesterday. Even with the best offensive force in the world today, it is difficult to deter and negate a massive 3,000-missile DPRK force. The nation and our forces forward must have sufficient defensive capacity to be able to withstand a first strike, and be able to respond accordingly to save lives.
The JEON upgrades to enhance the interoperability of the THAAD and (Patriot) PAC-3 MSE missile defense systems deployed on the Korean Peninsula, come in three phases. The first phase enables 10-plus THAAD launchers to be forward, located at great distances away from the deployed operational THAAD battery; that allows a vast expansion of defended areas in depth, due to the ability to launch these THAAD interceptors remotely, increasing battlespace. The second phase allows all the Patriot 3 missiles -including the newest MSE (missile extended-range) from their Patriot batteries- to launch off of the THAAD tracking data from its radar, which can detect and track at tremendous ranges, giving all of these Patriot interceptors early-launch capability, thereby extending their defended-area footprints while simultaneously leveraging PAC-3 missile extended-range (MSE) capacity. The third and final phase enables the Patriot MSE launchers to be integrated with the forward, remote THAAD launchers, so as to provide in-depth layered defenses.
General Abrams noted these three phases during congressional testimony earlier this month: “One of them has already been deployed in Korea, and the other two will be deployed this year to dramatically improve our ballistic missile defense capabilities.” — Gen. Abrams, March 10, 2021.
It is a testament to the JEON process that the rapid fielding of new systems has expanded and improved deployed missile defense systems. It is a testament to the vision, foresight, and action by our senior military commanders to have rightly initiated this JEON. It is an even greater testament to the definitive action taken to date through the JEON process by the Missile Defense Agency and the Army for rapid acquisition, development, and deployment.
It is an imperative that we take the next step to increase the numbers of THAAD and Patriot MSE interceptors and launchers on the Korean Peninsula, to best deter North Korea and to defend the population of South Korea and our American forces deployed there. Our nation’s missile defense systems deployed on the Korean Peninsula, and arrayed from California, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and across the Indo-Pacific, with our allies and partners, remain a testament to our strategic imperative in deterrence to prevent conflict and enhance stability and peace.