WASHINGTON: North Korea can’t nuke the US, not yet. But boy dictator Kim Jong-un already has about a thousand ballistic missiles capable of hitting South Korea and, in some cases, Japan — potentially with a nuclear warhead. Against a large-scale launch, former Pentagon strategist Van Jackson said this morning, the missile defenses on the peninsula are “woefully outgunned.” In that scenario, the current combination of Army Patriot launchers and Navy Aegis ships couldn’t defend our own bases, let alone our allies’ cities.
As North Korea’s arsenal grows, said Jackson, “we’re kind of inching our way towards crisis and nobody’s doing anything to stop it.”
That’s why we must build up missile defenses in South Korea, said Jackson, Amb. Joel Wit, and Aerospace Corporation scientist John Schilling at a 38 North press breakfast this morning and in follow-ups with Breaking Defense. Step one, Jackson said: Deploy a THAAD battery, which brings longer-range radar and interceptors than the Patriots. In longer run, the three experts added, laser weapons and rail guns might fill a valuable niche role — but only a niche. (More on that tomorrow).
Just the idea of deploying THAAD is already controversial in South Korea and outright condemned by China, admitted Jackson, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. But having just come from the Asan Plenum in Seoul — a gathering considered “the Davos of Korea” — Jackson said the politics of THAAD are shifting.
“The Koreans are much more favorable about THAAD,” he said, “than they were six months ago.” That’s not because of any brilliant strategy on America’s part — the US hasn’t even made an official proposal to deploy new missile defense, he said — but because of “heavy-handedness” on the part of the Chinese. In a twist that must make Sun Tzu spin in his grave, China has lobbied South Korea so hard against the THAAD deployment that Koreans, as a backlash, are now more in favor of it…