On Fox News Sunday’s panel discussion on the North Korean situation, Republican strategist Ed Gillespie voiced concerns over the Obama Administration’s having “flipped on missile defense,” citing its 2009 reversal of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program President Bush initiated.
Gillespie commended the Administration’s recommitment to 14 GMD interceptors in response to North Korea’s threats, but added, “I only wish the President hadn’t waited so long and would make a priority of missile defense.” The nation must preserve and advance its capabilities to deter against a possible North Korean attack. In addition, the United States must be ready to protect its allies in the event that such deterrence fails.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol lamented the fact that there has been a “very haphazard follow through” on Ronald Reagan’s push for a strong missile defense program. Only 1.5 percent of the defense budget is spent on missile defense, and China, despite urging North Korea to stop any further testing—to little avail—cannot be depended upon to undermine the regime. Kristol warned that “we don’t know that the North Korean regime will not be proliferating their weapons [once they get them].”
Recently, North Korea threatened military strikes on the United States and South Korea. Concerns have heightened about how far along Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital) is in developing its long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. North Korea hopes to design an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could hit the U.S.
North Korea, given its history, is more likely in the near term to conduct another tactical-level attack on South Korean military and civilian targets, rather than a nuclear strike. The successes of their recent missile tests have increased the possibility of miscalculation by Pyongyang. North Korea has initiated provocations before in order to raise concerns over escalation, thereby forcing opponents to try and contain the situation. This has emboldened the regime in the past.
This time, however, Pyongyang’s announcement that it is in a “state of war” with the South has caused the U.S. to deploy F-22 stealth fighter jets to bolster its ally. In addition, the U.S. and South Korea signed a Combined Counter-Provocation Plan on March 24 to counter future North Korean attacks with a combined South Korean and U.S. response.
In order for any such plan to be credible, however, the United States must devote sufficient forces and budget resources to this effort. Defense budget cuts to naval and air force procurement plans must be reversed. The most effective deterrent to a North Korean attack is the capability of the U.S. to reduce and eliminate the likelihood of such an attack being successful.