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Missile Defenses Being Upgraded In Response To North Korean Threat

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced yesterday that the U.S. would be bolstering West Coast missile defense systems in response to recent threats from North Korea:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will spend $1 billion to deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast to counter the growing reach of North Korea’s weapons, a decision accelerated by Pyongyang’s recent belligerence and indications that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is resisting China’s efforts to restrain him.

The new deployments, announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday, will increase the number of ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska to 44 from 30 by 2017.

The missiles have a mixed record in testing, hitting dummy targets just 50 percent of the time, but officials said Friday’s announcement was intended not merely to present a credible deterrence to the North’s limited intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. They said it is also meant to show South Korea and Japan that the United States is willing to commit resources to deterring the North and, at the same time, warn Beijing that it must restrain its ally or face an expanding American military focus on Asia.

“There’s been a quickening pace of provocations,” said one senior administration official, describing actions and words from North Korea and its new leader, Mr. Kim. “But the real accelerant was the fact that the North Koreans seemed more unmoored from their Chinese handlers than even we had feared.”

Although American and South Korean intelligence officials doubt the North is close to being able to follow through on a nuclear strike, or that it would even try, given its almost certain destruction, analysts say the country’s aggressive behavior is an important and worrying sign of changing calculations in the North.

In interviews over recent days, Obama administration officials described internal debates at the White House and the Pentagon about how strongly to react to the recent provocations. It is a delicate balance, they said, of defending against real potential threats while avoiding giving the North Koreans what one official called “the satisfaction of seeming to make the rest of the world jumpy.”

In announcing the deployments at a Pentagon news conference, Mr. Hagel cited North Korea’s third test of nuclear weapons technology last month, the successful test of a long-range missile that sent a satellite into space, and the discovery that a new generation of mobile missiles appeared closer to development.

“We will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitments to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression,” Mr. Hagel said.

All 14 of the new interceptors will be placed in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, where 26 interceptors are already deployed. Four others are at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

While it’s unlikely that North Korea can strike U.S.. territory (with the possible exception of some place like Guam) at this time, this strikes me as a prudent move.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    We should also be positioning forces and conducting training exercises a little aggressively around the Chinese. Nothing too dramatic, just a little something to let them know that they have to keep better control of their puppet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Davebo says:

    Doug,
    It’s a prudent move if we need a “feeling” of safety rather than actual safety.

    For over 30 years DOD has been trying, and failing, to show it had developed a workable system capable of defending against anything but perhaps 40% of attacks conveniently scheduled with 36 hours warning.

    But heck, what’s another billion on top of the hundreds of billions we’ve wasted already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    So, was Obama wrong when he canceled those extra 14 interceptors back in 2009, or is he wrong to reactivate them now?

    The initial plan — under the Bush administration — was for 44 interceptors in Alaska One of Obama’s first acts was to cut that back to 30, saying it was a waste of time and money. And according to the experts, not only will it be more expensive to put in those missiles now than if we’d done it as planned in 2009, the missiles themselves are more expensive.

    Plus, I suspect, the cancellation most likely drove up the cost of those first 30 missiles. It’s almost always cheaper on a per-unit basis to buy in larger numbers. Breaking the buy into two separate transactions, four years apart, pretty much guarantees a higher per-unit cost than buying them all at once.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  4. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos Idanian #13

    How’s the plan to bring back the great white fleet coming along?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: How’s the plan to bring back the great white fleet coming along?

    Racist!

    Besides, nowadays it would be a Great Gray Fleet.

    And nice dodging of the question. I guess Obama’s position on this particular defense project “evolved,” too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. Al says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Obama is wrong now. Like Davebo said, this money is being spent to give the impression that something is being done to counter the threat. If Republican leadership was serious about cutting the deficit they’d note that we’re spending a billion dollars on something doesn’t really work because of a threat that is, at best, marginal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Al: You see, anjin? That’s how you answer a simple question.

    Al, I disagree with you — missile defense is important. And geographically speaking, a missile from North Korea isn’t that much different than a missile from China. I suspect that is something that isn’t being spoken, but understood in Beijing, Washington, and a whole bunch of places in between.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  8. anjin-san says:

    That’s how you answer a simple question.

    With idiotic blather? Well, that’s how you do it anyway. But keep telling yourself that you are actually the glib, witty hero of a movie if that gets you through the night…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Al, I disagree with you — missile defense is important.

    One would think that weapons systems that actually worked would be important…

    And geographically speaking, a missile from North Korea isn’t that much different than a missile from China.

    Except, of course, that missles from China can actually reach the United States while missles from North Korea cannot…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: Except, of course, that missles from China can actually reach the United States while missles from North Korea cannot…

    Allow me to clarify: geographically speaking, a missile launched from North Korea isn’t that much different than a missile launched from China. The “geographically speaking” should have made it clear I was referring not to anything about the missile’s construction, but trajectory. However, I was not totally explicit.

    Little Kim just gave us a gold-plated excuse to put up some defenses that, just coincidentally, will also help protect us from a Chinese attack, and in a way that China can’t complain about. How considerate of him.

    And that is the real significance of this announcement.

    Oh, and as far as the effectiveness of the interceptors? The only way to be certain of how good they are is for an actual attack. However, the uncertainty will definitely have to be taken into account in China, where their strategists will have to rework their plans just in case they are as good as the builders promise. They probably aren’t, but that’s how these things work — hope for the best, plan for the worst.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  11. rudderpedals says:

    Lacking any real knowledge and involvement in this I suggest a great big aerostats in the ROK Japan and Siberia with friggin laser beams attached to their heads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    Scare tactics – we have seen it for decades. The old Soviet Union was sold as a great threat in the 70s when in reality it was already coming apart at the seems. Remember those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The military industrial complex feeds on war and the only way to get citizens to agree to war and defense spending is to scare the hell out of them. And yes it is a bi-partisan fraud.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Little Kim just gave us a gold-plated excuse to put up some defenses that, just coincidentally, will also help protect us from a Chinese attack, and in a way that China can’t complain about. How considerate of him.

    Oh yes, because if there’s one thing we need to worry about, it’s a missile attack from China…I see somebody’s been having fantasies about a Red Dawn sequel…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Davebo says:

    Oh, and as far as the effectiveness of the interceptors? The only way to be certain of how good they are is for an actual attack.

    Yes, I’m sure DOD has just been faking failures for 30 years. It’s a great way to get congress to authorize funding don’t ya know?

    You truly have a dizzying intellect. I’m amazed you can walk a straight line yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Remember back in the 1980′s, when airheaded liberals (BIRM) in the media and in academia literally foamed at the mouth about Reagan’s SDI?

    We were told it was reckless and specious foreign policy. That Reagan was all but trying to incite a nuclear war. Also that it would not work, could not work, never could work, won’t ever work. Hell, after some successes by Patriot Missiles in the first Gulf War the idiot savant left got worried it would be juxtaposed onto a national system and before the ink had dried on that conflict they were pushing the agenda that it could not be so juxtaposed.

    My, my, how times changed. Here we are in 2013. And now the left’s patron saint and the smartest guy in the entire universe, or whatever, is all in favor of missile defense. Which of course is quite ironic, given that only a few years ago Obama quashed interceptors and in so doing sold out the Eastern Europeans and others. Perhaps the greatest irony here is that young student liberals and washed-up Hippies on the Internet won’t be able even to grasp the various ironies.

    In any case, obviously it would be nice if Obama could govern as a sentient and rational person, as opposed to so much trial and error and having to be mugged by reality as he staggers along. But at least he does clue in to the ways of the world, albeit nearly in all instances late or after the fact. So far we haven’t paid the price of mass casualties for Team Obama’s naivete and empty-headedness. Hopefully that’ll remain the case.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  16. Al says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Oh, and as far as the effectiveness of the interceptors? The only way to be certain of how good they are is for an actual attack.

    The only way these sentences make any kind of sense is if you’re working for Lockheed Martin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

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