In the national security concern and direct response of the nuclear ballistic missile threat from North Korea to Guam and the country of Japan, with its 120 million people and 53,000 (13,250 on Okinawa) United States armed forces inhabitants, the Japanese Minster of Defense Itsunori Onodera stated (Link) that any attack on Guam from North Korea would be an attack on Japan and put forward all of Japan’s missile defense capabilities – which are made up of four Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships and seven Patriot Battalions. Four of the seven Patriot Batteries have been deployed to Hiroshima, Kochi, Shimane, and Ehime. The United States in a statement today by the Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, the U.S. could assess “within moments” if a missile fired from North Korea was on track to hit the U.S. territory of Guam, and that “we will take it out,” in that situation. There is a THAAD battery deployed and operational on Anderson Air Base in Guam with tested proven capability (Link) to defeat the intermediate range ballistic missiles of the North Korea inventory made mostly of Musudan and Hwasong-12 (Link to previous Alert). Guam is a planned high priority target for the North Korean military because of its strategic nuclear and conventional strike capability for the United States in this region, from Anderson Air Force Base, that has demonstrated flyover missions with B-1 Bombers and B-52s to North Korea (Link).
Increasing ballistic missile defense capacity to both Japan and Guam of their existing capabilities is critical in their defense and is feasible with current United States capability and inventory that could be surged to this theater from the United States. Surging additional THAAD launchers and interceptors in Guam, to enable full capacity, along with an additional TPY-2 Radar – to fully enable 24/7 persistence, operations, and training – would increase the ballistic missile defense capability for Guam against the multitude of North Korean missile inventory at this range. For Japan, surging one or two U.S. THAAD batteries for the Tokyo region and for the strategic air domain in this region that Okinawa provides, would require additional defenses that would provide a layered capability with the existing deployed Patriot batteries – in which Japan should be responsible for the operations and maintenance costs – is the best near term solution to better the ballistic missile defenses for their nation and a strategic message to China and Russia. There are four existing U.S. THAAD batteries in Texas today with an additional one coming online next year. In the future, Japan will be investing in progressive and new evolving missile defense capability and capacity, that are years away from deployment with the acquiring of four additional Aegis (BMD) ships and an initial procurement of two Aegis Ashore sites, all equipped with the newest interceptors – the SM-3 Block IIA (Link), SM-3 Block IB (Link), and SM-6 interceptors (Link).
This year seven of North Korea’s ballistic missile tests have landed into the waters of the Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (Link) making a total of eight missiles that have landed in Japan’s EEZ. Deploying either U.S. or Japan Aegis BMD ship capability to intercept these tests takes away from an already limited amount of Aegis BMD ships and interceptors that are defending Japan and the United States Homeland from North Korea, that has more priority and importance. There have been four North Korean ballistic missiles that have flown over Japanese territory, the most recent over Okinawa prefecture last year, that have all been uncontested and undefended because of the height of trajectory and lack of missile defense capability to intercept. This unfortunate reality has set a precedent that continues by North Korea, in forcing tolerance and acceptance by the Japanese government, who are constitutionally not allowed to have or take offensive action, relying strictly on United States presence and capability to assure their defense. Further the United States of America, or any country in the world today, does not have a deployed operational boost phase interceptor and system that can intercept and destroy a ballistic missile in its early ascent stage. Though the United States proved out and intercepted a ballistic missile, in boost phase, with a chemical Airborne Laser (ABL) from a 747 off the coast of California in 2010 (Link). That program was terminated by President Obama in 2013 (Link) and today the Missile Defense Agency is on the preliminary research phase for a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platform, with a non-chemical directed energy laser for boost phase missile defense as a system and interceptor (Link).
Forthcoming and logical, is that North Korea using its threats upon Guam (Link) to pull global attention from their goal of mass producing nuclear ICBM capability and capacity to overmatch our nation’s limited number of 44 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) (in place by the end of year) to strike the United States homeland. North Korea will most likely conduct another road mobile Hwasong-14 ICBM lofted test launch and a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) test that follows its first completely successful submarine launched test on August 24, 2016 and the successful February 12, 2017 launch of a submarine ballistic missile on land earlier this year (Link). From a North Korean perspective, having a second-strike capability that would survive a pre-emptive first strike against them by hiding inside of mountains or under water is critical for their survival as a regime and a nation.
It is absolutely in the National Security interests for the United States to defend its population by keeping their “eye on the ball” with North Korea, increasing and surging our nation’s missile defense capacity and capability to defend our homeland, our territories and our allies of Japan and the Republic of Korea. We as a nation cannot be tied down with policy restrictions and interpretations from previous administrations that limit our capability and capacity to defend ourselves.
Ballistic missile defense capacity and capability will deter and prevent another Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our nation should be doing more to defend over 500 million people of the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea from the intent and capability of North Korean ballistic missiles.