Coun­ter­ing North Korea’s nukes

The time might be right for an ‘Asian NATO’

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By James A. Lyons

There is no ques­tion about North Korea’s drive to achieve in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile ca­pa­bil­ity. The ob­jec­tive is clear: to be ca­pa­ble of launch­ing a pre-emp­tive nu­clear at­tack against the United States. Of course, with Py­ongyang’s mul­ti­ple bal­lis­tic missile launches into the Sea of Ja­pan, it was not only a sig­nal to Ja­pan but to the United States as well. Clearly, such ac­tions are desta­bi­liz­ing. How­ever, what is more desta­bi­liz­ing is our fail­ure over the past two decades to ad­dress this threat in any con­crete man­ner. Fur­ther, we should never for­get that North Korea is the “off­site lab­o­ra­tory” for Iran’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

For more than 25 years, we have tried to ne­go­ti­ate with one of the world’s lead­ing state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism and our re­ward is a nu­clear missile-armed North Korea. Eco­nomic sanc­tions have been a com­plete fail­ure pri­mar­ily due to the sup­port pro­vided North Korea by China, Rus­sia and Iran. In the dark­est days of the Cold War, we were al­ways un­der the threat of a pre-emp­tive in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile at­tack launched by the Soviet Union. With the Soviet Union, we be­lieved we were deal­ing with a con­trolled, ra­tio­nal lead­er­ship, but with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, we are faced with an un­pre­dictable so­ciopath with a para­noid per­son­al­ity. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is the fact that North Korea’s desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tions are be­ing car­ried out un­der the pro­tec­tive um­brella of China which, like Iran, is us­ing North Korea as its proxy to fur­ther its po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tive of achiev­ing hege­mony through­out the Western Pa­cific.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son’s re­cent trip to the Far East made it very clear that the Obama pol­icy of “strate­gic pa­tience” is over and that all op­tions are on the ta­ble. China pre­dictably replied that more talks should be con­ducted. Nat­u­rally,

the un­der­cover “holdover” agents from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion at the State De­part­ment also fa­vor non-threat­en­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions and more non-pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions.

My re­sponse to the “more talks” crowd is that China and North Korea must demon­strate they are se­ri­ous about ne­go­ti­a­tions by re­duc­ing their nu­clear missile threat. For ex­am­ple, Py­ongyang’s KN-08 and KN-14 mo­bile in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, which can tar­get Washington, D.C., ride on 16-wheel trans­port-erec­tor-launch­ers (TELs) made in China. Th­ese launch­ers were covertly made in China by the San­jiang Spe­cial Ve­hi­cle Corp. of the China Aero­space Sci­ence and In­dus­try Corp. (CASIC), sur­rep­ti­tiously shipped to North Korea and re­vealed in an April 15, 2012 Py­ongyang mil­i­tary parade. There­fore, since China claims they want a de­nu­cle­arized penin­sula, it must take back its TELs as a pre­con­di­tion for any talks. Ac­cord­ing to Ja­panese re­ports, there are eight TELs. Re­call­ing th­ese TELs is key since it is what gives North Korea the mo­bil­ity to launch a sur­prise nu­clear at­tack against the United States.

Re­gard­less of what China agrees to, we need to move ahead with our plans to pro­tect the United States and our al­lies from the threat of an at­tack from North Korea. Three years ago, Rick Fisher and I dis­cussed in a Washington Times op-ed the pos­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing an “Asian NATO.” At that time, we thought it was pre­ma­ture since many Asian states pre­ferred to co­op­er­ate mil­i­tar­ily with the United States on a bi­lat­eral ba­sis. Fur­ther, long-stand­ing en­mi­ties be­tween many coun­tries pre­vented the build­ing of a for­mal in­tra-Asian mil­i­tary al­liance. How­ever, with con­tin­ued ag­gres­sive ac­tions by China in both the East and South China Seas, plus the ex­pand­ing nu­clear threat from North Korea, this pro­posal should be re­vis­ited.

As a first step for coun­tries will­ing to par­tic­i­pate, ini­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tion links could be estab­lished with our fa­cil­i­ties on Guam. A small plan­ning staff should also be estab­lished even prior to the es­tab­lish­ment of a for­mal al­liance.

Ja­pan could also send a very pos­i­tive sig­nal by mod­i­fy­ing Ar­ti­cle Nine of its Con­sti­tu­tion. Such a mod­i­fi­ca­tion would au­tho­rize the es­tab­lish­ment of a Na­tional De­fense Force (NDF) and the prime min­is­ter would be its com­man­der in chief. Such a change would per­mit the NDF to de­fend Ja­pan’s sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory from a for­eign at­tack, and would also fa­cil­i­tate Ja­pan’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in an Asian NATO de­fen­sive al­liance, as well as other in­ter­na­tional peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions. Such a move by Ja­pan would clearly raise the level of de­ter­rence.

Other ac­tions we need to take on an ex­pe­dited ba­sis are as fol­lows:

• Up­grade our to­tally in­ad­e­quate anti-bal­lis­tic missile (ABM) sys­tem. Cur­rently, we have no ca­pa­bil­ity against hy­per­sonic-ma­neu­ver­ing war­heads. For­tu­nately, there is a soft­ware that has been tested with an 90 per­cent-plus kill ef­fec­tive­ness that needs to be in­stalled now in all cur­rent ABM sys­tems, in­clud­ing the Aegis SM-6 sys­tem, which would com­pletely neu­tral­ize China’s anti-ship bal­lis­tic missile.

• Har­den our elec­tric grid against an elec­tro­mag­netic pulse (EMP) at­tack. We can­not over­look the fact that North Korea has two satel­lites (KMS-3 and KMS-4) cur­rently or­bit­ing over the United States. If th­ese satel­lites are nu­clear-armed, they could carry out an EMP at­tack. We must be ready to neu­tral­ize th­ese satel­lites.

• To re­store strate­gic bal­ance, we need to re­in­stall tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons on our de­ployed sub­ma­rine forces in the Western Pa­cific. It also must be made very clear that if North Korea launches a nu­clear at­tack, the na­tion will no longer ex­ist.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the above ac­tions will not only send the ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sage to our ad­ver­saries but re­verse a long de­cline in our de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity.

ILLUSTRATION BY GREG GROESCH

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