US to boost missile defense against North Korea, Iran
"The reason that we are doing what we are doing and the reason we are advancing our program here for homeland security is to not take any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat and to assure any contingency," Hagel said.
A portion of the $1 billion cost of the expanded system will come from scrapping the final phase of a missile defense system the U.S. is building in Europe.
Hagel said Friday that U.S. missile defense systems in place provide protection from "limited ICBM attacks," but added that "North Korea, in particular, has recently made advances in its capabilities and has engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations."
The system in Europe is aimed mainly at defending against a missile threat from Iran; key elements of that system are already in place.
The decision to drop the planned expansion in Europe happens to coincide with President Barack Obama’s 's announced intention to engage Russia in talks about further reducing each country's nuclear weapons arsenal.
The Pentagon announced Friday it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles.
Defense officials confirm the move, saying it's in response to recent threats from North Korea to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons. U.S. officials believe North Korea is incapable of carrying out an attack, but the threat adds to tension between the two countries.
The Pentagon intends to add the 14 interceptors to 26 already in place at Fort Greely, Alaska. That will expand the system's ability to shoot down long-range missiles in flight before they could reach U.S. territory. In addition to those at Greely, the U.S. also has four missile interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The officials confirmed the decision on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will announce at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Friday a plan to bolster U.S. missile defenses in Alaska to counter the growing North Korean threat, a U.S. defense official said.
The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, did not offer additional details. But a topPentagon official said on March 12 the United States had the ability to swiftly deploy up to 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors, if needed, in Alaska.
The North Korean military has fired a salvo of tactical surface-to-surface missiles into the Sea of Japan.
The missiles were KN-02s, capable of hitting targets at distances of up to 120 kilometers.
South Korean defence officials have described the exercises as division-level.
Voice of Russia, AP, cbsnews, Interfax, Reuters, CNN
Recently, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un publically said that if an armed conflict between his country and South Korea starts, the first place in North Korea where the South would deliver a strike would most likely be the island of Baengnyeong.
However, the majority of observers believe that the current aggravation of relations between the two Koreas, tough as it may be, is unlikely to grow into a real war.
On March 11, North Korea annulled the truce treaty that was signed after a war between the two Koreas in the 1950s. This was North Korea’s response to South Korea’s participation in large-scale US maneuvers called “Foal Eagle”. The maneuvers will last till April 30. Parallel with them, the US and South Korea are holding maneuvers called “Key Resolve”, which are based on computer modeling.
The US says that these maneuvers are of a defensive character. However, some analysts have doubts about their peaceful character. Russian expert in Korean affairs Evgeny Kim says:
“The Pentagon may be interested in aggravating the conflict between the two Koreas as long as it doesn’t grow into a real war. US forces are deployed in this region, and tension in relations between the two Koreas may make the US authorities allocate lager sums to the Pentagon.”
“Now, what is behind this “exchange of niceties” between the two Koreas?”, Mr. Kim continues. “Well, it has already become sort of a tradition that when a new leader comes to power in one of the Koreas, the other starts to provoke harsh rhetoric from him or her (hoping, of course, that this rhetoric would not grow into action) just to test the limits of his or her emotional stability.”
“Still, I believe that a war between the two Koreas is hardy possible,” Evgeny Kim concludes. “The worst scenario may be a minor exchange of shootings at the least. The leaders of both countries seem to be wise enough to stop before it is too late. As for Americans, they have too many problems in other parts of the world to interfere in a war on the Korean peninsula if it does break out.”
Recently, the National Security Advisor in Barack Obama’s administration Thomas Donilon said that the US would do everything within its abilities to defend itself and its allies from the threat which, as he claims, comes from North Korea.
North Korea, in its turn, is defending its right to have nuclear weapons in spite of a resolution of the UN Security Council that bans North Korea from having them. North Korea’s leaders claim that having nuclear weapons is the only way for them to protect their regime from being overthrown.
However, there is at least one serious reason to say that however harsh the verbal battle between North Korea, on the one side, and South Korea and the US, on the other, may be, it is very unlikely that either South Korea or the US will start a real war against North Korea. The North Korean regime is obviously backed by the Chinese, and China, at present, is too strong for anyone to dare to attack China’s friends.
This summer, 60 years will turn since the end of the war between North and South Koreas. Within these years, several generations of leaders have changed in both countries – but it seems as if in both countries, every new generation of leaders had to play according to the rules which the previous one had imposed on them, outdated as these rules may be. The current conflict shows that the truce between the two Koreas, which was signed as long as 60 years ago, has still failed to grow into real peace.
Another Russian expert in Eastern affairs, Stanislav Tarasov, says:
“Although, ethnically, North and South Koreans are one nation, they have a very different mentality. Even if the two Koreas once unite into one state, it would most likely take a long time for residents of the South and the North to get used to each other’s ways and habits.”
Still, it would probably be wrong to say that nothing has changed in the North Korean Communist regime with the advent of the new young leader. Although Kim Jong-un, who is currently 30, claims that he is keeping to the traditions of his father and grandfather, in reality, he has carried out several reforms, although not very radical.
As for South Korea’s new President Park Geun-hye, her rhetoric with regard to North Korea is probably a behavior expected from someone in this post rather than a reflection of her real convictions.
The peoples of both Koreas are tired of living in such tension. The two countries’ top politicians are probably also tired of it. Sooner or later, something has to be changed in the policy of both countries.