The answer is so simple that few have even thought of it. North Korea plans on another long-range test of a Taepodong-2 missile that could potentially hit the US. The answer is to shoot the Taepodong-2 missile down with our current missile defense system. A successful shoot down would indicate several things immediately to other countries.
Other nation states, rogue states, and potential terrorist attackers would know that America can shoot down any missile threat at will. No people dead. No one held hostage. Remainder of whatever nuclear missile strike capabilities other countries might have, would essentially be rendered ineffective.
Kim Jong II, North Korean leader, has been saber-rattling for several years now. He continues to pour money into a nuclear missile first-time threat, especially towards Japan, South Korea, and possibly Hawaii and even San Francisco. But Kim Jong has said his missile tests would actually be for a satellite. In the past, Iran and North Korea have used “supposed” satellite launches to improve their long-range ballistic missiles.
It’s true that Kim Jong has long been unpredictable and highly irrational in most of his decision making. To date, rash judgments, emotional outbursts, and total lack of logic seems to plague his decision making.
If one of his rogue missiles was shot down by an American missile defense system, several things would be ascertained: 1) missile defense was proved to work on a real time ballistic weapon, and could be used on others, 2) almost every country having a missile attack system (~30 countries) would second guess their nuclear expenditures, and possibly antiquate their entire system of ICBMs, 3) no country could hold America or its allies pawn in a nuclear threat scenario, 4) North Korea could do little else—another missile (against UN Security Council Resolution #1718) could be shot down again, 5) the current administration would have to be concerned a successful US missile hit would be a highly convincing “test”; it would make it difficult to further reduce missile defense spending; (i.e., doing away with missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic).
Already in Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ proposed 2010 budget, there are plans for the 44 interceptors in Alaska and California to be reduced to 30 [North Korea's Nuclear Program]. That includes $1.2 billion worth of cuts in missile defense in just 2010. The Obama administration has argued having a lower number of missiles would be sufficient to match any North Korean mass launches at the US. Democrats in Congress have a history of trying to cut spending on missile defense.
If Kim Jong does threaten a full scale attack, 30 missiles may, or may not be enough. Could he still threaten an attack and hold America or its ally a hostage to obtain what he wants? Could a much larger owner of nuclear-tipped missiles do the same, such as Iran, China, or even Russia?
The Navy has been trying to keep pace with missile defense by having 73 Aegis ships around the world armed with missile defense capabilities [North Korea, China, U.S., Japan: Missiles, Missile Defense, Naval ...]. They’re mobile, they’re more numerous than ground-based missiles, but have a particular weakness that ground-based missiles don’t have.
A successful missile shoot-down by Americans [sent a letter] would say volumes to Kim Jong, who has thumbed his nose at UN Resolution #1718, which prohibits North Korea from conducting any launch of a ballistic missile. That shoot down would push valuable info on Venezuela, China, Russia, the UN, allies, and waiting terrorists around the world.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said “there will be consequences” if North Korea proceeds with their planned launches. It’s probably a fact she didn’t actually mean a “shoot down”, but one can hope.
For sure, without a shoot-down or some physical proof that missile defense is a viable option sending ICBMs to the dustbin of history, the number of nuclear-capable countries will only increase. Your vote in the next presidential election will likely chart our course. That is, if we can wait that long…
Kevin Roeten can be reached at [email protected]