On Wednesday, December 2, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance was honored to host its seventh Congressional Roundtable event in the Capitol Visitors Center. After returning from an 18 day tour of the Pacific Region, MDAA was excited to host a panel of distinguished speakers to discuss missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region. Our featured presenters were Mr. Richard Fisher, the Senior Fellow for Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center and retired Brigadier General Kenneth Todorov, the former Deputy Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
We had just returned from my 18 day tour of the Asia Pacific Region, where we had the opportunity to visit five U.S. bases, two Japanese bases, a U.S. Aegis BMD ship, a Japanese Kongo-class ship, Two 1-1 Patriot Battalion batteries, the THAAD battery Task Force Talon and the United States Forces Korea Headquarters. We also hosted four Missile Defender of the Year events with two allied nations of Japan and Korea and one U.S. territory of Guam. We held the first ever Japan Defender of the Year hosted by the soon to be Japanese Air Self Defense Force Chief, General Yoshiyuki Sugiyama. We recognized and honored 40 U.S. military personnel for their excellence in missile defense throughout 2015 in this region and 30 Japanese and Korean military members for their excellence in missile defense for their homelands. At the core of the visit was meeting with our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen and our Marines deployed in the Pacific. In addition, we met with the 7th Fleet Commander, the 5th Air Force Commander, the 7th Air Force Commander, the deputy USFK commander and soon to be the 8th Army Commander, the US Navy Forces Korea Commander, the Special Operations Forces Korea Commander, the 94th army AAMDC Commander, Commander of the USS Shiloh, Commander of the JDS Kirishima, 35th ADA Brigade Commander, 1-1 ADA Battalion Commander, and the Task Force Talon Commander. We interacted and created relationships with seven foreign military general flag officers as we build partnership trust and help to facilitate increased partnership capacity, interoperability and an integrated team concept.
We took this fresh from the field knowledge to bring awareness and education on the current systems, challenges and capabilities of the countries and systems visited. We highlighted China as a threat to the region by having one of our nation’s top experts on China present an unclassified brief on current Chinese ballistic missile capabilities, growing trends and documented actions as well as educate on the intent of why China would seek this movement. We were able to have the former Deputy Director of MDA close the session before a question and answer period with bringing forward operational capability concerns and future development of MDA systems.
Mr. Fisher began his discussion by outlining the importance that China places on its strategic missile arsenal calling them, “the most important capability that they have.” He added that the first military unit that Xi Jinping visited after rising to the headof the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was the 2nd Artillery, which is the main missile force in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He then described the value that nuclear weapons provide to the CCP, including their ability to deter attack as well as provide coercive leverage over China’s neighbors in regional conflicts. Mr. Fisher then proceeded to discuss the technical characteristics of the Chinese missile arsenal. The slides he used during his presentation are available on our website here.
Brigadier General Todorov then brought the discussion back to the operational perspective of the issue, emphasizing that it is important to work with partners and regional actors to bring stability. He emphasized that missile defense would be the cornerstone of stability in this region, highlighting that Chinese objections to placing a THAAD battery in Korea based on potential destabilizing effects are refuted by Beijing attempting to create a similar capability. He sought to highlight four challenge areas and outline possible solutions to those problems. Those areas are:
- The North Korean threat to the United States homeland is a growing and continuing challenge, despite recent unsuccessful tests. Todorov emphasized that if China wants to contribute to regional stability, using some of the influence that it has in Pyongyang to cool some inflammatory rhetoric.
- The continued broadening of the numbers and also types of systems being developed also presents a threat in the region. To counter this, every sensor is important to create a common picture of the battle space, which is also an area where partners and allies can provide support.
- The problem posed by unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is a growing and complex threat that may in the future replace short and medium range missiles because of their versatility. Working to understand the nature of the threat and finding new ways to respond through training exercises like Black Dart will be important in the future.
- The hypersonic missile threat is also at the forefront of the Missile Defense Agency’s mind because of its game-changing potential. The development of these systems challenge current missile defense capabilities because of the non-ballistic trajectory these missiles will follow. MDA has ideas about how to counter these missiles but returning the Agency to its original research and development mission will be essential to maturing that technology.
- During the question and answer period, the panelists discussed the ways that China could assist in creating stability on the Korean Peninsula, and the development of Chinese cyber and anti-satellite capabilities. All of the speakers on the panel emphasized the importance of developing and strengthening existing partnerships to develop more robust capabilities and allow regional partners to respond to regional coercion
The discussion was a powerful statement about the nature of the challenges facing the United States and the efforts to deal with them. The Asia Pacific region is home to the most advanced missile defense capabilities in the world, and all of our speakers agreed that expansion of these systems would help spread peace. These efforts will include significant work with partners and allies to build interoperability and integration to construct the most effective missile defenses. We would like to thank both our speakers and all those who attended for making this event the success that it was.