North Korea's Kwasong-14/KN-14 intercontinental ballistic missile test launch was by far the Fourth of July's most disturbing firework.
Spoiling America's birthday was Pyongyang's goal. In fact, for the Kim dictatorship, it's an old hat propaganda tactic. On July 4, 2009, North Korea test-fired seven short-range missiles. July 4 missile displays send a provocative signal: the North Korean dictatorship is targeting the U.S.
On July 6, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce commented on North Korea's ICBM provocation. "The U.S. is not going to allow the capacity, for a despotic dictator from North Korea to fulfill his rhetoric and develop a nuclear warhead that could hit the U.S. or its allies -- for which, we (Australia) are one." Joyce said North Korea is testing the American resolve and "that's a very foolish thing to do."
However, North Korea's rotund dictator, Kim Jong Un, revels in megalomaniacal theatrics that include foolish threats.
Here's the bad news: he is now acquiring the missile and nuclear weapons technology to turn his threats into a deadly regional and international disaster.
North Korea's Kwasong-14 test demonstrated that Kim has an ICBM capable of striking Anchorage, Alaska and very likely Honolulu, Hawaii. Some military analysts argue the ICBM's performance indicates it can hit southern California. That means Kim can target western Canada, the U.S. Pacific Northwest and possibly a slice of Nevada.
For several years, his regime has fielded intermediate range ballistic missiles that can strike the western Aleutians and Guam.
Guam is sovereign U.S. territory. North Korean IRBMs are the primary reason the U.S. Army positioned a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile battery on the island.
THAAD has had 14 successful intercepts in 14 operational tests. That's good news, for in the 21 century, defending against enemy ballistic and cruise missile attacks is an absolutely vital military capability.
Today few in Washington or the mainstream media will disagree with that. It wasn't always so. As I mentioned in a recent column, in 2003, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opined: "The United States does not need a multi-billion-dollar national missile defense against the possibility of a nuclear-armed ICBM. What we need is a strong nonproliferation policy with other nations to combat the most serious threat to our national security."
For three decades, left-wing Democrats opposed missile defense. Today's U.S. Missile Defense Agency was originally Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Scoffing Democrats call SDI "Star Wars" and ridiculed missile defense supporters.
But Reagan realized advances in missile, sensor and weapons technologies rendered the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a Cold War relic. Violent dictators ignore non-proliferation treaties.
Earlier this year the U.S. deployed a THAAD battery to South Korea. South Korea knows THAAD provides protection. So do the short-range Patriot PAC-3 ABMs in South Korea.
Japan has several Patriot PAC-3 ABM batteries. Recently, Japan decided to buy two land-based Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems that fire the U.S. Navy's Standard Missile-3. The SM-3 can intercept an enemy missile at a range of 500 kilometers.
Japan already has six AEGIS destroyers (warships) armed with SM-3s. South Korea has three AEGIS destroyers and will build more. The South Korean ships could be armed with SM-3s.
The Trump Administration is using U.S. missile defense capabilities to provide security for South Korea and Japan and signal U.S. resolve -- a point the Australian deputy prime minister didn't want Kim Jong Un to miss. For that matter, Australia is acquiring three AEGIS destroyers with ABM capabilities.
The U.S. Ground-based Missile Defense system protects North America from ICBMs. It employs the Ground-Based missile. The good news is two months ago the GMD intercepted a target ICBM. However, the system is skeletal; at the moment around 30 GBIs are available. Development of this system was slowed by benighted political opposition.
Missile defense enhances U.S. security but it also enhances the security of U.S. allies. The Reagan Administration foresaw that political and diplomatic pay-off.