World View: America’s Likely Response to North Korean Test: Missile Defense Systems

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile tests
  • China’s foreign policy becomes complicated by North Korean test
  • America’s likely response: More THAAD and Aegis missile defense systems

UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile tests

South Korean TV coverage on Sunday of North Korean missile test (AFP)
South Korean TV coverage on Sunday of North Korean missile test (AFP)

The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session on Monday, and issued a statement strongly condemning North Korea’s ballistic missile launches.

The missile was launched on Sunday from North Korea’s Banghyon air base in the western North Pyongang Province. It reached an apogee of 344 miles and traveled out to about 313 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan. Analysts say that the missile test is significant because the new missiles use solid fuel, and because it can be launched from vehicles traveling over rough terrain, both of which make them harder to detect than liquid-fuel-based missiles.

The missile test shows that it could reach targets in South Korea, China, and Japan, and that North Korea is getting close to developing a nuclear missile that could reach the United States.

The UN Security Council statement said:

The members of the Security Council deplore all the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ballistic missile activities, including these launches…

[We call] upon all member states to redouble their efforts to implement fully the measures imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Security Council.

Some Security Council members have called for imposing additional economic sanctions on North Korea, but are few choices left beyond those that have already been imposed. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that North Korea will continue developing nuclear and missile technology irrespective of any imposed sanctions. Reuters and Defense News and Deutsche Welle

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China’s foreign policy becomes complicated by North Korean test

On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had to answer questions about North Korea’s ballistic missile test. The exchanges became fairly testy, illustrating how anxious China is about the situation, and about how complicated it is making China’s foreign policy. Here are some excerpts showing the testy exchanges (the DPRK is North Korea, and the ROK is South Korea):

Q: The DPRK allegedly tested a new type of nuclear-capable missile yesterday…

A: We have noted relevant reports and are closely following the developments. The Security Council resolutions contain clear provisions on launches using ballistic missile technology by the DPRK. China is opposed to the DPRK’s launch which violates the Security Council resolutions.

Given the current circumstances, relevant parties should not engage in mutually provocative moves which could heighten regional tensions. All parties need to exercise restraint in a joint effort to maintain regional peace and stability. …

Q: There is sort of a saying that China has leverage over the DPRK. Has the US communicated with China over the missile test and asked China to do more? Analysts speculate that the missile test is an opportunity for China to tie up its greater cooperation on the Korean nuclear issue with US cooperation in keeping peace and stability of the South China Sea. Is that a valid speculation?

A: The root of the DPRK nuclear and missile issue lies in the differences between the DPRK and the US and between the DPRK and the ROK. As a permanent member of the Security Council and a responsible member of the international community, China has always enforced the Council’s resolutions in their entirety, promoted peace talks, and made unremitting efforts to facilitate the settlement of the issue of Korean Peninsula. China’s efforts have been widely acknowledged and acclaimed by the international community…

Q: You just mentioned that the root of the DPRK nuclear and missile issue lies in the differences between the DPRK and the US and between the DPRK and the ROK. Could you be more specific as to how the differences between the DPRK and the ROK lead to the nuclear and missile issue?

A: What I said just now was that the root of the DPRK nuclear and missile issue lies in the differences between the DPRK and the US and between the DPRK and the ROK. This is not the first time for us to say so. This is a viewpoint that has been repeatedly emphasized.

Q: Does China believe that Washington should take the initiative on tackling the issue of missile test by the DPRK?

A: The root of the DPRK nuclear and missile issue lies in the differences between the DPRK and the US and between the DPRK and the ROK…

Q: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that China, who has complete control of what sustains the government of the DPRK, should play a bigger role. Do you agree with him?

A: I have actually given the answer when addressing other journalists’ questions. The root of the DPRK nuclear and missile issue is the differences between the DPRK and the US and between the DPRK and the ROK. Given that, we hope that relevant parties make more efforts to resolve the DPRK nuclear and missile issue.

As you can see, an exasperated Geng Shuang answered several questions the same way, essentially blaming the United States and South Korea. I’ll bet he was happy when that press conference was over. AP and China Foreign Ministry

America’s likely response: More THAAD and Aegis missile defense systems

Last year, the U.S. and South Korea announced the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea. It is considered to be the most advanced anti-missile system available anywhere today because it can blast incoming missiles out of the sky with 100% success rate. The stated purpose of the deployment would be to protect South Korea from a North Korean ballistic missile attack.

China has expressed enormous fury over the installation of THAAD in South Korea. When the announcement was made last year, Chinese media have attacked South Korea with inflammatory rhetoric and recommended harsh economic sanctions against South Korea. China has even been calling for anti-THAAD demonstrations in South Korea.

The reason that China has been freaking out over THAAD is that it also protects South Korea from a ballistic missile attack launched by China. Furthermore, THAAD’s advanced detection systems would provide early warning of a Chinese missile attack on the United States.

Sunday’s ballistic missile test by North Korea severely complicates China’s foreign policy with regard to this issue, because it makes a THAAD system in South Korea even more necessary. According to Chinese media:

Establishing THAAD on the Korean Peninsula has always been part of Washington’s plan to expand and enhance its anti-missile network in the region. Aside from anti-missile cooperation with allies such as Japan and Australia, the US has also deployed the THAAD system in Hawaii and Guam, destroyers with missile interceptors in the Sea of Japan, and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors on the Japanese soil…

However, inviting the ROK to join the game being played by the US and Japan does not just respond to the DPRK’s nuclear threats but also places more countries including China under US military surveillance. Keeping Japan and the ROK committed to its Asian policy would be another boon to the US. …

However, the two allies are yet to offer any solid evidence to reassure Beijing that the anti-missile battery does not target any third party. Nor have they taken any action such as removing radars that might be used to spy on China to prove their point. China will not sit idle while Washington and Seoul press ahead with THAAD in the name of handling the “DPRK threat”.

Another system is the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. It is a centralized, automated, command-and-control (C2) and weapons control system that was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill. The high-powered radar is able to perform search, track, and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with a track capacity of more than 100 targets. There are currently 84 U.S. Navy ships in service with the AEGIS Weapons System installed: 22 Cruisers and 62 Destroyers. There are an additional three new construction Destroyers with the AEGIS Weapon System installed that will enter service in FY 2018.

The North Korean missile test is going to substantially increase demand for additional THAAD and Aegis system, and pose additional problems for China’s planned missile attack on the US and its allies. China Daily and Global Times (Beijing) and US Navy

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, North Korea, UN Security Council, China, Geng Shuang, South Korea, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, THAAD, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, BMD
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