31 July 2016
The progress of the North Korean ballistic missile program seems inexorable. In his quest to build a credible ability to threaten U.S. Pacific territories like Guam with a nuclear strike, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un has pushed his missile program through five unsuccessful tests of the Hwasong-10 IRBM on April 15, 2016, April 28 (two on the same day), May 31 and June 22 respectively, before a successful sixth test on the same day as the fifth failure.
On July 9, Kim’s missile program attempted to test a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), a Bukguekseong-1 SLBM, which exploded shortly after launch. However, if history is any guide, this failure should not be dismissed as the North Koreans are known to disregard surrender as an option, striving for a successful test over the long run. Excluding this launch, the KN-11 has already been tested nine times since October 2014. While Korea’s national intelligence agency has predicted that Pyongyang could deploy an operational SLBM by 2019, it would not be surprising if this goal is reached much earlier.
If the deployment of effective North Korean IRBMs and SLBMs is inevitable, it would only make sense for the U.S.-ROK alliance to deploy the U.S. made Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system on South Korean soil in order to intercept any North Korea missiles. However, the range of the THAAD radar and interceptor missiles will enable this system to intercept missiles fired from China, eroding the efficacy of the PRC’s strategic deterrence. Hence, Beijing bitterly opposes Washington’s and Seoul’s joint decision taken on July 8 to deploy THAAD.
… Liang Tuang Nah, Ph.D., is a fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 01/08/2016