The task in some areas involves trying to get old enemies, such as Japan and South Korea, to work together. Or harder still, seeing whether Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states will join in a common defense system.
Thirty years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan unveiled his unachievable “Star Wars” program to protect against a surprise attack of thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads.
Today, there remains an annual U.S. missile defense program that costs $8 billion or more and keeps a minimal antiballistic missile system to protect the homeland. It also works on developing new ABM technology and can confront perhaps dozens of intermediate and long-range missiles.
On March 15, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the future deployment of 14 additional ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, the site of 30 deployed GBIs. Along with four other GBIs at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, that represents the entire U.S. homeland-based force arrayed against intercontinental ballistic missiles. The United States has early warning radars around the globe and in space and a command-and-control architecture that links all elements of the system.
What is the United States doing in the rest of the world?
The best summary is in the transcript of a session on “The United States and Global Missile Defense,” held by the bipartisan Atlantic Council on March 12.
James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, said U.S. concern about North Korea was its “potential ICBM capability . . . compounded by the regime’s focus on developing nuclear weapons.” He described Iran’s “continued efforts to develop nuclear capabilities and long-range ballistic missiles . . . [as] not as advanced as those of North Korea.”
■North Korea and Iran have shorter-range missiles that provide regional threats.
Retired Gen. Walter Sharp, former head of the U.S. and Republic of Korea Combined Command, said North Korea had more than 800 missiles — all of which could hit South Korea. Most could hit Japan, some the United States, Australia and other countries.
Miller noted, “The United States forward-deploys Patriot Advanced Capability 3, or PAC-3, batteries in South Korea to defend U.S. and South Korean forces,” adding that South Korea is enhancing its own program.
The country is building a complex system with ground and sea-based interceptors, radars and command-and-control systems.
■Miller also said Japan “has acquired its own layered missile defense system, which includes Aegis ballistic missile defense-equipped ships with SM-3, Standard Missile 3, interceptors.” Japan also has PAC-3 units, early warning radars and sophisticated command-and-control systems.