WASHINGTON – As the Singapore-top put North Korea on a path to eliminating nuclear weapons, as President, Donald Trump says that it is, then it also may have poked a hole in the Pentagon, the main argument for a multibillion-dollar expansion of domestic defence.
The Singapore declaration by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, said Kim agreed to “work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” Don’t define a process, say when it would begin or say how long it would take.
Even so, Trump tweeted later, “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Trump’s own administration later contradicted him by saying that the threat remains. But if Kim does disarm, then the Congress may see less logic in spending $6 billion or more to expand a missile defense system in Alaska that is especially designed with North Korea in mind. The Alaska system, which consists of 44 missile interceptors that would be launched from underground silos to shoot down enemy missiles streaked in the direction of the United States, is not the only element of the AMERICAN missile defense. But it is one of the most expensive and by expanding in the next five years.
“If real progress is made in fixing or even eliminate North Korea’s missile arsenal and the production of, it would be the main driver for national missile defense,” said Jon Wolfsthal, who was the national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and is now the director of the Nuclear Crisis Group, focusing on the prevention of the use of nuclear weapons.
The US army has plenty of defenses against non-strategic missile threats, which would endanger the V. S. or the allied forces on the Korean Peninsula or in Europe. But the only one that shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles, or icbms aimed at the US, such as that North Korea has built, is the Alaska system.
The fundamental approach of the Alaska system is to fire a rocket in the space, the detection of a hostile missile in the direction of the U.S. The rocket would release a 5-meter-long (1.5 meters) on the device, a so-called “kill vehicle” that makes use of internal guidance systems to steer themselves in the path of the oncoming missile’s warhead, destroying it by the force of the impact. It is officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, and the Pentagon compares it to hitting a bullet with a bullet.
As Minister of Defence, Jim Mattis visited the Alaska site in Fort Greely on Monday, he acknowledged that the Singapore-top had a new element in the missile defense equation, he says, with a crystal ball to know how to proceed.
“Even if a threat goes away, we have to stay alert to other things in the world,” he added, which suggests that it is still too early to withdraw the planned expansion in Alaska. The missile interceptors to the Alaska site, which could provide protection of the U.S. against threats from Iran, but Iran currently has no nuclear weapons or missiles capable of reaching AMERICAN soil.
The Trump card of the administration says the defense policy focused on “great power” competition with China and Russia, but defenses against strategic missiles from those countries are unlikely to be anchored in Alaska. The administration is supposed to be the revision of a series of space-based options for a more comprehensive missile defense.
Frank Rose, a former senior arms control official at the Ministry of foreign affairs during the Obama administration, said Mattis seems to be taking a cautious approach by testing North Korea’s intentions to disarm before changing the course.
“If we are in a situation in which North Korea is to eliminate, in a verifiable manner, their nuclear program and their ballistic missile program … we would definitely need to reassess” the direction of missile defense, Rose said. “That seems logical. But until we are in that position, I think we should continue with the (missile defense) program as described.” Rose is now a senior fellow at the Brookings institute, the think tank.
As it happens, the Pentagon is now completing a long-term, comprehensive review of the missile defense policy and programs. When that was started last year, there was little prospect of a Trump-Kim-top of the North Korean nuclear disarmament. Among other worrisome developments, from an AMERICAN point of view, the North had demonstrated its ability to launch an ICBM, and it was hinting at the test-firing of a nuclear missile in the Pacific ocean.
Against that background, the Congress this year approved the Pentagon’s plan to build and deploy an additional 20 missile interceptors in Alaska by 2023. The price tag is not extensively described, but the Missile Defense Agency, which manages the program, received the order for Boeing Co. this year, which suggests that the cost in the range of $6.5 billion.