U.S. assesses North missile as threat to its land in decade

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U.S. assesses North missile as threat to its land in decade

A new United States report called the “Ballistic Missile Defense Review” says that even though the test launches of the North’s Taepodong-2 missile in 2006 and 2009 were deemed unsuccessful, the U.S. must assume that North Korea will eventually successfully test long-range missiles.

If there are no changes in the North’s strategy, the North will be able to mate a nuclear warhead to a proven delivery system, threatening the U.S. mainland within a decade, said the report, released Monday, U.S. Eastern time.

“The U.S. effort on developing missile defense is targeted at deterring possible missile provocations from Iran and North Korea,” said Michele Flournoy, the under secretary of defense for policy. “The instability of states that are armed with weapons of mass destruction or their collapse is our most concerned subject.”

The U.S. has deployed a ground-based midcourse defense system and ground-based interceptors to protect itself from potential missile threats from the North, according to the BMDR. The North has also developed an advanced solid-propellant short-range ballistic missile and a mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile is under development, said the BMDR.

The North has boycotted the six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear programs. It has demanded sanctions be lifted and a peace treaty signed to replace a cease-fire armistice that ended the Korean War (1950-53).

Released on the same day, the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review said that the U.S. will continue to maintain a forward military presence in Northeast Asia and work closely with South Korea and other allies in order to effectively address the North nuclear threat. In addition, the changing status of the United States Forces Korea from forward-deployed to forward-stationed with family members will enable forces to deploy from South Korea to other conflict regions, according to the review. Changing the status of U.S. forces in South Korea from unaccompanied to accompanied will result in nearly 5,000 service members with families being forward-stationed on the peninsula, the report said.

Changing the status is part of the U.S.’s effort to advance the South’s lead role in the combined defense of its territory, together with the transition of wartime operational control to the South Korean military in 2012.

The report said the U.S. will develop a more adaptive and flexible combined force posture on the Korean Peninsula to strengthen the alliance’s deterrent and defense capabilities and long-term capacity for regional and global defense cooperation.

The report said the U.S. will drop its “two war” principle in which the country is capable of waging conventional war in two different areas at the same time. Rather it will adopt a “broader security threat readiness” principle enabling the nation to confront small-scale high-tech military aggression, including terror and cyber attacks. For the first time, the report includes climate change as one of America’s broader security threats.

Other than existing battlefields of ground, sea, air and space, the review added cyberspace as a fifth area where the U.S. should strengthen capabilities. In order to cope with security threats that take place in many forms around the globe, the U.S. military pledged to improve its capabilities to rapidly deploy small-scale special forces.

By Kim Jung-wook, Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

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