Advanced Missile Defense Coming to Korea

NK-Submarine-Missile-Launch
(Photo from Sputnik News website)

The peace that exists on the Korean Peninsula continues to be a precarious one based on the Armistice Agreement signed in 1953 ending the combat operations of the Korean War. Over the years there have been many provocations that have resulted in both military and civilian deaths and drawing observers to the edge of their seats.

With the recent missile tests that North Korea has engaged in, it has become necessary for the Republic of Korea (ROK, commonly referred to as South Korea) and those who assist in protecting its people to step up their defensive posture. United States Forces Korea (USFK) has recently announced the culmination of discussions between the ROK and U.S.A. resulting in the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system onto South Korean territory.

North Korean President Kim Jong-un (photo from Real Clear)
North Korean President Kim Jong-un (photo from Real Clear)

Other countries have already voiced their disapproval over the deployment of THAAD to Korea (not surprisingly, Russia, China and North Korea) and with the way nation-level thugs often respond to defensive measures as though they were offensive, I’m glad that my tour of duty in Korea is coming to an end, though I remain concerned for the Korean friends I have made here, and all of those who live under the continued specter of war. According to the U.S. Pacific Command’s Facebook page:

North Korea’s nuclear test and multiple ballistic missile tests, including the recent intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launches, highlight the grave threat that North Korea poses to the security and stability of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the entire Asia-Pacific region.

In response to the evolving threat posed by North Korea, the United States and the ROK have been conducting formal consultations regarding the feasibility of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery operated by U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) since early February, as a measure to improve the missile defense posture of the ROK-U.S. Alliance.

Based on these consultations, the ROK and the United States made an Alliance decision to deploy THAAD to USFK as a defensive measure to ensure the security of the ROK and its people, and to protect Alliance military forces from North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile threats.

Through the past months of review, the ROK-U.S. Joint Working Group confirmed the military effectiveness of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula and is in the final stage of preparing its recommendation for both the ROK Minister of National Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Defense regarding the optimal site in the Republic of Korea for the system’s effectiveness and for environmental, health, and safety requirements.

The ROK and the United States are working closely to ensure the swift deployment of THAAD and will develop specific operational procedures.

When the THAAD system is deployed to the Korean Peninsula, it will be focused solely on North Korean nuclear and missile threats and would not be directed towards any third party nations. The THAAD deployment will contribute to a layered missile defense that will enhance the Alliance’s existing missile defense capabilities against North Korean missile threats.1

And here’s the official press release from USFK:

July 8, 2016 — YONGSAN GARRISON, SEOUL, Republic of Korea – The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States of America (U.S.) agreed today to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the Republic of Korea, in response to North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missile technology in contravention of six United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

This Alliance decision was recommended by ROK Minister of Defense Han, Min Gu and Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea commander, and was approved by the ROK and U.S. governments.

“This is an important ROK-U.S. decision,” said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea commander. “North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction require the Alliance to take this prudent, protective measure to bolster our layered and effective missile defense.”

The decision to deploy THAAD underscores the ironclad commitment of the United States to defend the Republic of Korea. THAAD will be focused solely on North Korea and will contribute to a layered missile defense that would enhance the Alliance’s existing missile defense capabilities against North Korean missile threats.

This announcement follows the February 7, 2016, announcement that the ROK and U.S. had begun formal consultations regarding improvements to the Alliance missile defense posture, specifically the viability of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system operated by U.S. Forces Korea.2

This is an illustration of how THAAD and the current Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems will work:

 Ãà»çÇÏ´Â ¹Ú»ï±¸ ±ÝÈ£¾Æ½Ã¾Æ³ª±×·ì ȸÀå (¼­¿ï=¿¬ÇÕ´º½º) ¹Ú»ï±¸ ±ÝÈ£¾Æ½Ã¾Æ³ª±×·ì ȸÀåÀÌ 14ÀÏ ¼­¿ï Àá½Ç ·Ôµ¥È£ÅÚ¿¡¼­ ¿­¸° ÇÑÀÏ ±¹±³Á¤»óÈ­ 50Áֳ⠱â³ä¡®ÇÑÀÏ ¿ìÈ£ °ü±¤ ±³·ùÀÇ ¹ã¡¯Çà»ç¿¡¼­ Ãà»ç¸¦ ÇÏ°í ÀÖ´Ù. 2015.2.14 <> photo@yna.co.kr/2015-02-14 23:40:23/
(Graphic from The Korea Herald website)

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There are many places around the world that need our prayer, places where people not only live under the risk of armed conflict, but daily their citizens are being persecuted, tortured or killed. Most of us can’t go into those areas to help, but as believers we can pray for them. Pray that evil will not triumph. Pray that the faith of believers will remain strong under the most brutal trials. Pray that Jesus will return soon to put an end to Satan’s reign over the hearts of so many who cause terror in our world today.

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U.S. Pacific Command Facebook page

U.S. Forces Korea webpage

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What if North Korea Attacks?

As the Brigade Chaplain, I’m involved in much of the staff work and planning for the Brigade Commander. Recently, the staff has been working on plans for the brigade in the event of war on the Peninsula. Often, when this planning is done in units in the States, it is theoretical or long-term but here in South Korea, it’s real life and comes with a sense of urgency and reality.

North Korean Artillery FireIt is not a secret that North Korea has one of the largest artillery inventories in the world, much of it pointed at South Korea. The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is just 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) so is most vulnerable “with estimates of as many as 13,000 [North Korean] artillery pieces positioned along that border.”According to a South Korean security analyst quoted by GlobalSecurity.org, the North Koreans “could fire 10,000 rounds per minute to Seoul and its environs.” Which, based on some estimates, this “conventional artillery capability would allow North Korea to flatten Seoul in the first half-hour of any confrontation.”2

Much of the damage that would result from a first strike by North Korea would include significant loss of life and infrastructure to nearby U.S. And South Korean military bases. This doesn’t even take into consideration the North Korean use of uncoventional weapons. North Korea “… is armed with weapons of mass destruction — probably including nuclear weapons — and which, even more frighteningly, has developed a specific strategy for using them” against South Korea.3

According to Bruce W. Bennett, Senior Defense Analyst and professor at Pardee Rand Graduate School, North Korean strategy of attack looks something like this:

— Against South Korean and American battlefield forces, North Korea has emphasized artillery with chemical weapons, and built a huge arsenal of each.

— Against the nearby South Korean capital Seoul and ground force reserves behind the battlefield, North Korea has emphasized long-range artillery with chemical weapons, and special forces with biological weapons.

— Against rear area and off-peninsula targets, North Korea has emphasized ballistic missiles with chemical weapons and special forces with biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons.3

Grant it, it would not be long after an initial attack by North Korea that a formidable response was launched from U.S., South Korean and other militaries, but depending on the extent of that response, North Korea could still survive to launch another series of attacks.

The North Korean military has long understood that fortified bunkers are the key to survival in the face of superior enemy air power. There are thousands of hardened underground bunkers close to the front line, and North Korean artillery will carry out “shoot and scoot” attacks, emerging briefly to fire and withdrawing rapidly.4

According to a Rand Corporation Study referenced by PopularMechanics.com, it only takes about 75 seconds after firing, for North Korean artillery to be back under cover and protected from destruction. Ultimately, they would be found and destroyed, but a significant amount of damage and loss of life could be done in the mean time.

Technology can [possibly] help prevent the North Koreans from getting in a second shot. But there is not yet any solution to the thousands of shells and rockets they could launch with the first salvo on Seoul, and that remains one of the biggest concerns in an escalating conflict.4

United States Forces in Korea have plans in place for rapid evacuation of family members and non-essential United States citizens from the peninsula in the event of conflict, as well as issuing protective equipment for family members to protect against chemical and biological attacks. These plans provide some comfort to those living here, but in reality, if North Korea launches an attack from their close proximity, it’s not likely that any of those protective measures would be effective.

Kim Jong-unOne would hope that Kim Jong-un would have sense enough to not begin a military conflict that would very likely end with his -and his military’s- annihilation but based on his (and his predecessor’s) statements and reckless activities, that hope isn’t very secure. Since the signing of the armistice, there have been no fewer than 50 border “incidents” involving North Korea.However, even as seemingly crazy as Kim is, maybe self-preservation will breed restraint in North Korea, allowing the power Kim exerts over his own people to satisfy his craving and prevent him from striking out against his neighbors, who, by the way, long for reunification and lasting peace.

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1 http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a6212/north-korea-and-flattening-seoul/

2 http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,446776,00.html

3 http://www.rand.org/blog/2003/03/n_-koreas-threat-to-s_-korea.html

4 http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a6211/north-korea-conflict-weapons-available/

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_border_incidents_involving_North_Korea

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Photos

Artillery fire: A view of artillery fire and landing exercises guided by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not seen) in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 21, 2015. (From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/25/asia-pacific/north-korea-100-nuclear-weapons-2020-u-s-researchers/)

Kim Jong-un with Generals: This photo is from a past DG article from the last time the North Koreans threatened an attack against the U.S., here sits the mighty Kim Jong Un surrounded by his generals making ingenious plans to destroy the U.S. — this was obviously a staged photo. Then if you zoom in above the general’s head (as NKNews.org points out) you can see a map of the US with lines coming into it (implying lines of attack). The text apparently reads “US Mainland Strike Plan” (which is not subtle). (From http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/north-korea-threatens-nuclear-missile-attack-on-u-s-again/)

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