“In case the command-and-control system over the state nuclear forces is placed in danger owing to an attack by hostile forces, a nuclear strike shall be launched automatically and immediately to destroy the hostile forces,” – Korean Central News Agency, September 9, 2022
The new North Korean law acknowledges North Korea as a nuclear state, and purports to loosen the conditions under which the government structure can authorize a nuclear attack. It specifically authorizes a quick and total launch of the nuclear stockpile if the leader is killed by a foreign power. It also expresses the intent to launch a preemptive attack to protect the country against foreign threats, and states that the nuclearization of the country is now “irreversible” until all nuclear weapons from all states are disarmed.
This North Korean policy comes at a dangerous time with North Korea desperately trying to get attention and relevancy from a West preoccupied with challenges from Russia, and tension between China and Taiwan. North Korea’s carefully choreographed and orchestrated show of “might” for consumption by the world media demonstrates the lost limelight it once so coveted. North Korea will continue to seek attention by increasing their numbers and capabilities of missiles poised to strike the United States and overcome the limited missile defense systems the United States has in its defense of the homeland including Guam. North Korea is now on a direct path to try and overmatch current U.S. ground-based interceptors and the future U.S. Next Generation Interceptor capabilities to try and impose a drastic cost curve effect.
In just over one-year, North Korea has increased its number of missile tests, starting with a new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) missile called the Hwasong-8, tested on September 29, 2021. This year, they have tested 31 more missiles, close to four times more than the 8 they tested in 2021. On March 25, 2022, North Korea successfully tested a modified Hwasong-15 ballistic missile, along with their newest Hwasong-17 ICBM. In June, the North Koreans tested 8 short range ballistic missiles, launched from 4 different bases in just 35 minutes, and these missiles flew 68 to 416 miles away from the coast, while reaching speeds of Mach 3 to 6. And a potential underground nuclear test at North Korea’s base of Punggye-ri may be in the offing.
For the Missile Defense of the United States against North Korean Ballistic Missiles there are 44 operational GBIs with 4 of them in Vandenberg Space Base in California and the remaining 40 in Fort Greely Alaska and these can defend all 50 states. These 44 missiles are made up of three different generations of interceptors with different shot doctrines. Our “Smoke and Power – Negating North Korea ” released on September 13, 2021, discussed the successful demonstration of new GBI software that enhances their shot opportunities and creates more time to gather accurate data for follow up shots. In addition, there is a new 20-silo GBI missile field built in Fort Greely Alaska awaiting missile placement of the new 20 NGIs that are planned to be available by 2027 at the earliest.
For the Missile Defense of Guam against North Korean Ballistic Missiles there has been a US Army THAAD battery deployed on Guam operational since 2013 to defend against the threat from North Korea.
We as a nation are challenged to maintain and deploy sufficient missile defense systems for specific regional threats such as North Korea and Iran. We as a nation must now move to holistic solutions with common systems, common sensors and common policy integrated all together to face all ballistic hypersonic glide and cruise missile defense from all threats to include China and Russia.
We recognize there will always be an overmatch challenge in numbers from North Korea, Russia and China when it comes to missile defense. We recognize that holistically missile defensive capabilities and policy does deter and change the decision calculus of these North Korean, Chinese and Russian threats.
Our Conventional Force and Nuclear Force capabilities and capacities must be modernized and integrated with systematic efficiency to achieve unmatched strategic relative-competitive advantage.