New threats from North Korea bring the message of the documentary 33 Minutes to the forefront of the missile defense debate.
The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano was interviewed in a recent National Journal article on the documentary 33 Minutes and on the World Review for his thoughts on the worsening North Korea crisis.
33 Minutes’s title reflects how long it would take a ballistic missile to reach the United States launched from anywhere in the world. Today, the concerns of 33 Minutes ring louder and truer than before with the ever growing crisis in the Korean Peninsula. The growing tension in the region demands national attention, and requires a comprehensive strategy that includes working with regional allies and a strong missile defense system.
The film concluded on the importance of missile defense to national security, and the still prevailing threats to the United States from countries like Iran and North Korea. When the documentary was first released, the reality of its message was downplayed by many in the media, citing lack of evidence that either Iran or North Korea possessed such a capability.
North Korea’s recent third nuclear test and its announcement of moving a missile with “considerable” range to its eastern shore, along with a dire warning of a fast approaching “moment of explosion,” has caused Secretary of Defense Hagel to declare that North Korea has made significant advances in its capabilities. Hagel implied that the speed with which North Korea is moving in enhancing their capabilities is cause for concern. But according to Carafano, while the threats and belligerent actions from North Korea have intensified, any notion that North Korea’s capabilities have advanced faster than expected is “completely untrue.”
Tensions are steadily mounting in Asia in the aftermath of North Korea’s nuclear test in February. Kim Jong-un’s regime has threatened a nuclear attack on the United States. South Korea suffered North Korean cyber attacks disrupting finance and media in March. Pyongyang nullified the 1953 armistice with South Korea, and moved two of its intermediate-range ballistic missiles near the eastern coast on Friday.
In response, the Obama Administration reversed an earlier decision and increased the number of Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors from 30 to 44 in California and Alaska last month. By increasing the number of GMD interceptors on the West Coast the Administration made a welcome reversal on its previous reductions in missile defense. Carafano stated, however, that “if we had stayed on the original path [of missile defense programs], we’d be way ahead of this right now.”
The deteriorating security situation on the Korean Peninsula underscores the critical necessity for strong U.S. and allied defenses. Carafano believes President Obama’s initial reluctance to continue the Bush Administration’s missile-defense shield plan was a grave mistake. He asserts that “the president’s view [that] if you have too much missile defense, it becomes a problem when you negotiate with the other side, because they can’t threaten you [is ill-conceived].”
Not being able to threaten the United States is the goal of deterrence. Vulnerability, as Ronald Reagan said, “invites aggression.” The nation must not invite such aggression against its allies or against the region. It needs a strong defense.
Jordan Harms is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.