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June 20, 2006
Missile Defense: Shall We Play A Game?

Earlier today, North Korea stepped up the rhetoric surrounding their impending missile launch by declaring themselves free of the moratorium on missile launches it established with Japan four years ago. In response, the US has activated its missile defense systems while trying to keep our moves from being unnecessarily provocative:

The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a Washington Times report that the
Pentagon has activated the system, which has been in the developmental stage for years.

"It's good to be ready," the official said.

U.S. officials say evidence such as satellite pictures suggests Pyongyang may have finished fueling a Taepodong-2 missile, which some experts said could reach as far as Alaska.

The Taepodong-2 missile has Alaska in easy reach for a direct targeting profile. Depending on the configuration used, however, the Taepodong-2 can hit targets in the continental US using a ballistic polar route for its flight. The pending launch has the US and Japan on high alert. Without a doubt, if the rocket fires, the US will have no choice but to respond in some forceful manner -- and if we're lucky, it will only be a successful demonstration of the missile defense system.

Pyongyang asserted its right to launch ballistic missiles earlier:

North Korea asserted it has full autonomy to conduct missile tests, and outsiders do not have the right to criticize its plans, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported Tuesday.

Before the latest statement, North Korea's apparent moves toward test launching a long-range ballistic missile already spiked tensions in the region and drew warnings of serious repercussions from the United States and others.

Australia on Tuesday strengthened its warning to North Korea, saying Canberra could downgrade diplomatic ties with Pyongyang if the launch goes ahead.

Kim wants immunity from ... criticism? Well, he can wish all he wants. We've seen Kim's brinksmanship in the past, and we're still probably looking at more of the same. However, no one wants to shrug off his actions, and the increasing criticism coming from abroad will help convince Kim that provocative stunts like this may do a lot more damage than good.

In any event, we should know shortly whether Kim is bluffing or not. It may get to the point where further diplomacy simply cannot continue without some degree of rational thinking from the North Koreans.

UPDATE: Here's some timely information on our missile defense from TCS:

Missile defense remains a work in progress. For example, a highly sophisticated X-band radar is being towed by sea from Hawaii to Adak, Alaska, which sits some 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Once activated, it will discern between decoys and warheads as small as a baseball, and keep a watchful eye on inbound traffic from Beijing and Pyongyang.

Elsewhere on the high seas, May saw the Navy fire an SM-2 anti-missile missile from the deck of an Aegis cruiser and kill an inbound threat in its terminal phase (the final few seconds of flight). "It was the first sea-based intercept of a ballistic missile in its terminal phase," according to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Likewise, the MDA scored a land-based success in May, when rocketeers at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico test-fired a high-altitude interceptor missile designed to seek out and destroy inbound threats in their final minute of flight.

In the skies, the Airborne Laser -- a missile-killing laser mounted on a 747 that can loiter outside enemy territory and destroy a missile long before it threatens American soil -- continues to hit its marks. Ground-based testing of the laser was completed in December, with a new round of flight-tests scheduled for this coming fall, all building toward a full-blown missile-intercept above Edwards AFB sometime in 2008.

It looks like the array may arrive just in time.

UPDATE II: Dan at the BY Sun blog It Shines For All reminds readers that the Sun editorialized on the need to prepare for war in regards to North Korea:

But most of all a priority should be placed on preparing a military response to North Korea's nuclear program so that the moment intelligence discovers that the communists who run the North Korean state have been cheating, its atomic weapons program can be dealt with directly, before things reach the point that more countries than South Korea and possibly Japan are within range of North Korean guns.

The pacifist argument that has been circulating since President Clinton first started appeasing Kim Jong Il and set North Korea down the nuclear road is that any action against the communist state would endanger nearby countries. But the flipside is that inaction just lets North Korea build up its strength and have more countries in its sight. And now America is threatened. Now will America prepare for war?

We'd like to think so.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 20, 2006 10:39 AM

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