In defiance to world order, North Korea has fired 6 ballistic missiles over the last 12 days including an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the Hwasong-12 IRBM, for the first time since September 3, 2017, that flew over Japan. The IRBM reached an altitude of about 620 miles and flew about 2,850 miles for a flight time of 22 minutes before splashing into the ocean. North Korea, in violation of United Nations and United States sanctions has fired over 23 ballistic missiles this year. These North Korean maneuvers are cries for attention and an attempt to get the attention of China, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Kim Jong-un’s strategic impatience, is driven by his vanity and the recognition that he leads a third world country, declining in every other aspect of national power, besides an arsenal of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. This causes him to lash out in reckless abandon. Just as when you deal with a child, consequences have to be applied, to prevent further aberrant behavior.
“It is in the international community’s best interest to ensure the DPRK knows that such an action will be met by unanimous condemnation, that the only path towards long-term peace and stability is through negotiations,” – Daniel Kritenbrink, US State Department’s Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
“(The NSC) made it clear that continued North Korean provocations cannot be tolerated and that there would be a price to be paid,” – Yoon Suk-yeol, President of South Korea.
Japan’s new government and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida must continue to meet their pledge to raise their defense spending to 2 percent and include efforts to develop and deploy military means to strike and defend against North Korea, similar to those developed to counter China.
The United States has often taken an attitude of “Strategic Patience” in responding to aberrant behavior by authoritarian regimes. This approach can further incentivize Russia, China, and certainly Kim Jong-Un to be more aggressive. For North Korea this could mean nuclear tests, and more ballistic missile tests coming rapidly and abundantly. These aggressive actions by North Korea are destabilizing to the region. In order for the United States to make “Strategic Patience” work as a policy, it must be accompanied by the rapid deployment of U.S. Missile Defense capabilities to the Asia-Pacific region which includes both South Korea and Japan inside the First Island Chain, and to Guam in the Second Island Chain.
Once again, we are minded that the absence of robust missile defense capabilities in the theater actually induces the type of instability being created by these tests by North Korea, so instead we should deploy combat proven and combat ready persistent land-based capabilities in Japan, Okinawa and Korea to contribute to stability, deterrence and strategic patience.
The United States has five Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries garrisoned in the United States that are combat proven and combat ready that can be deployed today to Okinawa, Japan and Korea. There are a total of seven U.S. THAAD Batteries with a new eighth battery approved and going through the production stages. Two of the seven batteries are forward stationed in the Asia-Pacific region. One THAAD Battery has been deployed to Guam since April 2013, and another THAAD Battery has been deployed in South Korea since September 2017.
The THAAD in South Korea is the core of the most in-depth, layered Missile Defense deployed capability for the United States today in the world as it is fully integrated and interoperable with Patriot and its MSE interceptors connected through THAAD C2 developed by the Missile Defense Agency. This current proven THAAD Patriot integration can be easily replicated with the US Patriot Battalion in Okinawa, with Japanese Patriot Battalions in Japan and enhance the current THAAD and Patriot battalions in the Republic of Korea. Each U.S. based THAAD Battery would take 3 weeks and approximately 30 plus airlift flights, in possible contested airspace; a lack of airlift priority makes forward basing these THAAD Batteries in these regions a now prudent strategic and tactical decision for deterrence.
These systems can defeat North Korea’s demonstrated missile capabilities, including the firing this week over Japan and into the Sea of Japan. The United States does not require five THAAD Batteries sitting in the continental U.S. The United States must be strategically impatient to get these THAAD Batteries forward to the Pacific. That is how you enhance deterrence and enable Strategic Patience.