Last week, the long hot nuclear summer in North Korea continued with Kim Jong-un’s latest ballistic missile test. Analysts are interpreting the test as a dress rehearsal for striking U.S. bases in Guam. This comes just weeks after the North successfully tested a hydrogen bomb and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the range to detonate it over Greater Los Angeles. These two new developments call to question the foundations of our national defense.
The standing U.S. policy to deter such an attack has pivoted on the concept deterrence—a sort of geopolitical bluff that threatens a civilization-destroying counter attack on any adversary dumb enough to use their nuclear arsenal on America or its allies. But with a rogue and arguably irrational regime like Kim Jung-un’s now able to threaten the West Coast with a nuclear attack, it’s time to ask if this strategy is still a safe bet.
Through Kim’s eyes, it’s easy to wonder if America’s security guarantee to South Korea is worth the paper it’s printed on. Donald Trump might be the most unpredictable president in memory but it’s hard to think that he or any other leader would really trade a free South Korea for Los Angeles. Whether Kim and company think of their nuclear arsenal as an umbrella to shield an army attacking south or as an insurance policy against foreign invasion is unimportant; the fact of the matter is that the U.S. and its allies no longer have a free hand to deal in one of the world’s most important regions because of it.
Ask experts what there is to do about North Korea’s nuclear threat and you’ll get a short list of bad options. They’ve been written about extensively and are stung by a few common flaws: military action would almost certainly result in a costly war in the South, while diplomacy risks more of the same – a worsening situation where North Korea accumulates a larger arsenal of more sophisticated nuclear weapons that further destabilize the globe.
Given these realities, the best short-term option to balance North Korea’s nuclear capability is to immediately strengthen our homeland ballistic missile defenses against it. The Trump Administration already reached a similar conclusion when it upped its aide to South Korea by deploying the THAAD missile defense system there.
That thin line is held by the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, the only platform available to intercept the intercontinental ballistic missiles that foreign…