This week, Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, testified before Congress on “Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region” and “United States Pacific Command and United States Forces Korea.” Below are key statements made by Admiral Harris regarding missile defense.
MILITARY ASSESSMENT OF THE SECURITY CHALLENGES IN THE INDO-ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE (APRIL 26, 2017)
THAAD to South Korea
That’s why the ROK-U.S. Alliance decided last July to deploy THAAD, which will be operational in the coming days in order to defend South Korea against a growing North Korean threat.
Increasing Missile Defense Capability for Hawaii
We have ballistic missile ships in the Sea of Japan that are capable of defending against ballistic missile attacks. North Korea does not have a ballistic missile anti-ship weapon that would threaten the Carl Vinson Strike Group. The weapons that North Korea would put against The Carl Vinson Strike Group are easily defended by the capabilities resident in that strike group. If it flies it will die if it’s flying against the Carl Vinson Strike Group. I’m confident in that strike group’s ability to defend itself and project power if that’s the call we receive.
I believe that across the range of integrated air missile defense, IAMD, that we can and need to do more. I believe that the interceptors that we have that defend our homeland directly in Alaska And California are critical. I have suggested that we consider putting interceptors in Hawaii that defend Hawaii directly, and that we look at the defensive Hawaii radar to improve Hawaii’s capability.
But I do believe that the numbers could be improved. In other words, we need more interceptors, and then i believe that for the defensive of Hawaii, which is covered, also, by those interceptors, could stand strengthening itself. And that’s in terms of the defensive Hawaii radar and potentially interceptors. So that’s something we need to study much more deeply, but i think it certainly merits further discussion. we have one of our key systems that’s deployed now in the pacific, the SBX radar. It’s an X-band radar that’s on an oil platform that’s self-propelled with a golf ball-like antenna. We use it a lot and we have to be concerned with the condition of the platform itself which is old and the civilian crews that man it.
On North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Tests
The difference between the sixth and fifth test is if we notice an improvement between the two. As I said, Kim Jong-Un is not afraid to fail in public and he failed a lot. I think Edison failed a lot before he got the light bulb to work. He continues to try. He’s experimenting — experiment is probably not the right word. He’s developing missiles that have solid fuel propellants. I can talk in the other hearing about the implications of that. We have that weapons development going on, longer range weapons going on. He has a ballistic missile submarine, an SSB. It’s not nuclear powered, but it’s an SSB that’s troubling. And then he’s doing the nuclear testing. So all of that if he puts all of that together, the nuclear weapon, puts it on an ICBM he’s testing over here and figures out how to survive re-entry and we have a serious problem on our hands.
Interceptors in Hawaii
I believe that our ballistic missile architecture is sufficient to protect Hawaii today. But it can be overwhelmed, and, you know, if — if Kim Jong-Un or someone else launched ballistic missiles, ICBMs against the United States, and then, you know — somewhere we would have to make the decision on which ones to take out or not. So that’s a difficult decision. I think that we would be better served — my personal opinion is that we would be better served with a defensive Hawaii radar, and intercepters in Hawaii. I know that that’s being discussed and i don’t want to get ahead of those discussions. But i think we ought to study it for sure. and then make that decision as a department, what the best way forward is. But Kim Jong-Un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today, in my opinion.
Aegis Ashore/THAAD to Japan
I believe that there is more that we can do, and we should make available, I think, those systems to countries that are our allies and close friends that would want them. I don’t want to get into a discussion with Japan, for example, on what’s better. I think they can make that decision, but we should encourage them to go down that path. I think that it’s — that within our treaty structure, our alliance structure in northeast Asia, for example, one of the things that could be done, which we can improve on, is the relationship between Japan and South Korea. Right? they both have Aegis weapons systems, they both have Patriot, they both have ballistic missile defense. They need to get along better, and I’m happy to report that they are. That we’re having an effect in that and they recognize the need to do this, and the relationship between both of them and the trilateral relationship is improving which is a good thing.
UNITED STATES PACIFIC COMMAND AND UNITED STATES FORCES KOREA
SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE (APRIL 27, 2017)
THAAD enables us and our South Korean allies to defend South Korea or a big portion of South Korea against the threat from North Korea.
I’ve said before, Chairman, I believe it’s preposterous that China would criticize South Korea or the United States for placing a purely defensive missile system against the North Korean threat when the North Korean threat owes its survival, if you will, to China. I believe that China, rather than criticize the United States over South Korea for defending ourselves, should rather put that energy toward convincing Kim Jong-Un to stop his nuclear ambitions.
THAAD allows us an intercept capability to shoot down at the high altitude level ballistic missiles that go from North Korea to South Korea. It’s a Terminal High Altitude Aerial Defense system aimed at ballistic missiles from North Korea against South Korea. You know, that’s a short distance across the earth, but the missiles have to — the missiles have a high atmospheric altitude, and so that’s what THAAD gives you. THAAD is part of a system, you know, that the South Koreans have. THAAD, they have Patriot, and they have the like. So that’s what those systems are designed for, to give an umbrella, if you will, to protect South Korea.
Missile Defense in Hawaii
Thanks, Senator. I agree with you that the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai is a national treasure. I think that — I’ve gone on record as supporting the idea that we should develop and acquire a defensive Hawaii radar that gives Hawaii the ability to see the space, if you will, in the face of potential ballistic missile attacks. We have the SBX. that’s the X-band radar that sits on a self-propelled oil platform that has to be sustained and refurbished and all of that. I think a land-based permanent facility to do that is necessary. I believe today General Robinson will tell you that Hawaii is adequately defended. i think in the future, as North Korea continues its weapons development program that we need to look at all ways to improve the defense of Hawaii, including ground-based interceptors. I’m not smart enough to know if we should or not, but i think we should study it. and i think that would be the complement to a defensive Hawaii radar.
I have to be careful when I talk hypersonics in an open hearing, but I am concerned about Chinese and Russian hypersonic weapons development. I’ve expressed those concerns in the right places.
I think we must improve our ability to defend against and conduct hypersonic — defend against hypersonic weapons and develop our own hypersonic weapons. Again, in the development of hypersonic weapons, offensive hypersonic weapons, we’re going to run up against treaty restrictions.
North Korea’s Motivation/Intention to Develop ICBM
One, they want to be recognized as a nuclear power, and two they want to ensure their survival.
Depending on the nuclear weapon, depending on the missile, they could reach the eastern seaboard. They could reach us right here in this building. I believe they want to be able to threaten the United States.
THAAD/Aegis Ashore to Japan
I believe that’s a decision Japan has to make. I believe japan should have some kind of system like that, but whether it’s that or Aegis Ashore or something else, they have to make that decision.
So we work with Japan, and described the capability that THAAD would provide. That would give them also Aegis Ashore and potentially other systems, so that will be a Japanese decision.