On Friday North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon underground, making it their fifth nuclear detonation and the second this year. The impending results will increase North Korea’s capability to develop reliable nuclear weapons and miniaturize them for payloads on their ballistic missiles, of which 31 have been tested this year, including three earlier this week. It is of grave concern to hundreds of millions of lives that are at risk to North Korea’s ballistic missile threat. It is a clear, fundamental lack of leadership and responsibility of the nations in the region and the United States to not properly address and halt the accelerated proliferation of a nuclear weaponized North Korea. Cleary evident is the direct failure of U.S. policy towards North Korea which has relied on sanctions, political rhetoric, statesmanship and United Nation Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).
North Korea has taken aggressive advantage of an outgoing United States president, who has been unwilling to accept the failure to confront the accelerated build up and the ramifications of a nuclear North Korea. (Obama’s statement on North Korea’s fifth nuclear test
) North Korea, with 31 ballistic missile tests and two nuclear detonation tests in the last nine months, is seizing the opportunity with President Obama in his last year, knowing the United States President’s policy of sanctions, U.N. Resolutions and failure to lead the international community to stop North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. A nuclear weaponized North Korea that threatens close to 500 million people in Korea, Japan, the Pacific and the United States will be the biggest failure of this current administration.
Eight years ago when President Obama came into office, his administration reduced the number of Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) for the defense of the United States against North Korea from 44 to 30, reduced the funding and degraded the priority for the Ground Based Missile Defense System, while cutting the Missile Defense Budget from $9 billion in Fiscal Year (FY)2009 to $7.5 billion in FY2017. The administration then led, focused and funded a $4 billion system to defend Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles, which now defends 50 million Europeans living in Southeastern Europe against a potential breakout of an Iranian Nuclear Ballistic Missile threat. The Administration in 2014 readdressed the lack of GBI missiles in defense of 330 million Americans against North Korea and went back to 44 interceptors, but some of those 44 still have reliability issues which causes multiple interceptors to be fired at one target, due to lack of priority placed by the administration on this system and reduction of the MDA budget. When the President leaves office early next year, there will be 37 GBIs in place of those 44 promised, and production of these GBIs will cease after the last seven are deployed by the end of 2017 until the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) GBI is completely funded, tested and proven to be deployed.
It is a travesty that the President’s home state of Hawaii continues to be less protected from North Korean ballistic missiles than the rest of the 49 States and U.S. territories. The same system in Romania today, defending 50 million people in Romania, Greece and parts of Turkey, is sitting idle in Hawaii along with a TYP-2 discriminating radar that are already paid for, deployed and have ample capability to help strengthen Hawaii’s defense against North Korea.
It is a travesty that there are four THAAD batteries sitting in Texas – with one THAAD battery and one Patriot Battery capable of being deployed anywhere in the world on the President’s notice – that should be now deployed to Okinawa, Japan and/or in mainland Japan.
Adding to the inherent U.S. missile defense capability there are additional Aegis BMD ships, as well as baseline 9 Aegis Ballistic Missile Ships in the U.S. Fleet, a Sea Based X Band Radar that enhances reliability of the GMD system in Hawaii, that under the President’s notice can be deployed to the region to better defend the United States and our allies of Japan and Korea.
The President of the United States today can make the United States, Korea and Japan, with their combined population of 500 million people, safer and better defended than they currently are from a nuclear North Korea. By putting more available U.S. missile defense assets and platforms into the Pacific and around North Korea, the President of the United States will put strategic pressure directly upon China to be a stronger partner to help resolve the North Korea threat.
Expediting deployments of existing missile defense systems – to better defend 500 million people from a nuclear North Korea – is the most responsible option for the President of the United States, compared to a preemptive offensive strike against North Korea – that would carry a high risk of war on the Korean Peninsula – or continuing a failed policy that is enabling a nuclear North Korea.
The President, in his remaining months, is now at serious risk of a nuclear situation that will put 500 million lives at risk.
President Obama must lead, and lead with action – with at the minimum the deployment of additional missile defense systems to assure our allies – to make our nation and world safe.
Riki Ellison is Chairman and Founder of Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance