Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA May-June 2017 Contents Given the situation on the Korean peninsula, it
is appropriate that this edition of the magazine
discusses a number of protective systems
against ballistic missiles. As Pyongyang and Washington
each increase the pressure there is a serious chance that
even a minor incident could quickly develop into an all
out shooting war that might see the North fire hundreds
of large missiles at U.S., Japanese and South Korean
facilities. Protecting against such a barrage is now a very
high priority for defence planners.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has the following
assessment of the threat:
North Korea has expanded the size and
sophistication of its ballistic missile forces — from close-
range ballistic missiles to ICBMs — and has conducted
an unprecedented level of nuclear tests and ballistic
missile launches since 2016, including its fourth and
fifth nuclear tests, as well as its short-range, medium-
range, intermediate-range, long-range, and submarine-
launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launches. In February
2016, Pyongyang launched a TD-2 SLV from a west
coast testing facility. The technology involved in a
satellite launch would be applicable to North Korea's
other long-range missile programs. In addition to the
Taepo Dong 2 SLV/ICBM, North Korea is developing
and has paraded the two road-mobile ICBMs, if
successfully developed, would likely be capable of
reaching much of the continental United States.
Over the past year, North Korea conducted an
aggressive testing campaign, launching at least seven
Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs),
with a range greater than 3,000 kilometers. North Korea
tested a new SLBM capability in 2015 and again in 2016.
In February 2017 North Korea publicized the launch of a
new solid-propellant missile that appeared to be a land-
based variant of its SLBM. The missile was launched from
a canister carried on a previously unseen tracked launcher.
Today, North Korea fields hundreds of Scud and
No Dong missiles that can reach U.S. forces forward
deployed to the Republic of Korea and Japan. Over the
past months the regime conducted a multitude no-
notice Scud and No Dong missile tests from a variety
of locations throughout North Korea. This included a
simultaneous, salvo launch of MRBMs.
The end game in all of this seems to be approaching
with the Trump administration hinting that it will take
military action if the North is coming close to developing
a nuclear-armed missile that is capable of reaching U.S.
territory – which of course includes Alaska and Guam.
Pyongyang seems determined to do so and both sides are
now effectively in a game of chicken with very little talk of
compromise, particularly from the North, which is sticking
with its standard methodology of screaming threats of
destruction at its perceived enemies.
Short of some sort of military coup leading to regime
change, it is hard to see circumstances altering in such
a way as to neatly ease tensions. While there might be
some wishful thinking about Kim Jong-un departing the
scene and being replaced by someone more peaceful,
the chances of that happening in a totalitarian state
are extremely low. In fact the way that these things
usually work is that a crisis of this sort unifies support
for the leader – which can sometimes be a motivator for
generating one in the first place.
A rational regime would be prepared to accept
China’s security guarantee in exchange for a halt to its
nuclear weapons program, including long-range missile
development. Why Pyongyang seems uninterested
in Beijing’s offer – at least publicly – is something of
a mystery but must be connected with the paranoia
and ultra-nationalism of the ruling elite. For all that we
know, Kim Jong-un’s generals have convinced him that
the North is militarily strong enough to defeat outside
aggression, including from the U.S. – and with the
logical addition that the more nuclear weapons the
nation has, the safer it will be.
The overwhelming consensus is that in a major conflict
the North will be quickly defeated, especially if South Korea
with its huge and modern military joins in. However, for
the time that the North continues to resist in the face of
massive air and sea power utilising tens of thousands of
precision guided munitions it could in turn do an immense
amount of damage, particularly to the sprawling city of
Seoul, which would be almost impossible to completely
protect from artillery fire from over the border.
And while the U.S. can protect its bases from
limited numbers of ballistic missile attacks, there is
always the chance that something will get through.
Another major headache will be the protection of naval
platforms – including aircraft carriers – from North
Korean submarines. Defence planners will remember
the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan –
torpedoed by an undetected midget submarine from the
North with the loss of 46 lives in 2010.
The best thing that can realistically be hoped for is
a pause in activity with the North not testing any more
ballistic missiles – let alone a nuclear device. If Pyongyang
desists for a time – while maintaining the violent rhetoric to
save face – it might be possible to de-escalate tensions.
Washington might then also be able to very quietly
withdraw assets from the region. Hopefully Beijing is
working away as vigorously as possible behind the scenes
trying to flesh out what an acceptable security guarantee
might look like in practice.
Trainer Aircraft Programs
Night Vision Systems
Centric Warfare Programs
BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE & NORTH KOREA
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