US to beef up missile defense along West Coast, to defend against possible North Korea attack

Uh-oh. The NYT reports that the United States "will deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast to increase the Pentagon’s ability to blunt a potential attack from North Korea in a clear response to recent tests of nuclear weapons technology and long-range missiles by the North." Guess the Dennis Rodman basketball diplomacy thing had its limits. [New York Times]


  1. It’s either genuine concern or misdirection and I don’t like either of those.

  2. “While the limited missile-defense system does not offer a 100 percent guarantee of knocking down a North Korean attack…”  – its actual success rate was 8 for 16 during testing, so it’s a little lower than 100%.

    1. If NK actually launched a missile, we’d have plenty of time to launch multiple interceptors, so those odds (which are per interceptor, unless I’m completely mistaken) are actually just fine. 

      1. NK can’t even convincingly photoshop a missile launch, much less execute one.  If they actually launched a missile, we’d probably have to launch any interceptors from Mongolia, South Korea, or Japan to have any chance of hitting it before it fizzled and landed in the ocean.

        1. Exactly, they shoop firing a working long range missile at us and we’ll shoop firing a working missile defense interceptor back at them. It will be henceforth named the “Leprechaun versus Unicorn Defense”

        2.  Japan has interceptors if I am not mistaken as the whackjob in NK has indicated he’d like to see Tokyo glowing and both sides remember how the Japanese treated Korea when they “owned” it.

          Memories of wrongs done are long in that part of the world and while Kim Jong makes me ill, the Japanese are quite rightly nervous.

  3. I feel safer already.

    The new interceptors are scheduled to be deployed by 2017

    wait a minute…

    1. It does say that the US is going to deploy *additional* ballistic missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast. There are already 30 in California in Alaska. They are going to add 14.

      1. To bad the government doesn’t have access to the piece of advanced technology known as a “globe”. Putting missiles on the West Coast is the wrong place to put them if they were actually concerned with defending California. The missiles will be coming in more from the north than the west. Salt Lake City is closer to North Korea than Los Angeles. Most of Montana is closer to North Korea than San Francisco.

        This is obviously security theatre, just in another form.

        1. If the “Dear leader” says it is shorter to aim them due east, then by god it is shorter if you want to stay breathing in that land of the morning calm.

          Have you ever read his “official” biography?  I am surprised he doesn’t just make us vanish via mind power like that kid in the old Twilight Zone episode;  “You be dead!”

        2. If you read the article, they mention that all 14 of the new missiles are going to Fort Greely, Alaska.  That will mean an arsenal of 40 missiles stationed in Alaska, 4 at Vandenberg in California.

          An actual offensive launch from NK would mean their own destruction, and in that case none of this speculation means anything.  From a political standpoint, if NK threatened to use a polar trajectory they would lose a lot of support from China and whatever positive ties they have with Russia.  Even to use a more China-friendly high-latitude trajectory would take a missile over Sakhalin and Kamchatka.  Russia doesn’t want a failed NK nuclear missile raining debris on Kamchatka, and they certainly don’t want any US-bound missile to pass through their airspace.  In a real attack, NK would be committed to death and wouldn’t care about neighbour relations, but whatever.

          And these are just fixed, silo-based interceptors.  The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system is installed on at least 16 US Navy ships (cruisers and destroyers) in the Pacific, and there are 4 Japanese destroyers with “operational capabilities”.  PAC-3 Patriots are also available. etc. etc.

    2. According to NPR, we estimate NK won’t have a delivery system for another three years, so we are so damn close to safety.

  4. Perhaps we should be more concerned with the 10,000 containers coming into Long Beach every day. 

    1.  That would certainly be my delivery vector of choice. Who needs a missile when you can destroy any port city, with no significant chance of failure, via a nuke-in-a-box?

    2. Robert Heinlein wrote a short story about this which was featured in the Expanded Universe book. If I remember correctly the story had been written back in the 50’s.

  5. The real question is whether or not we have the photoshop “revert” technology that will be required to recover from the state-sponsored media coverage of a North Korean attack.

    1. I’m actually surprised North Korea doesn’t just broadcast over the air that they attacked us and that we are reeling from their mighty nuclear phalluses. I mean, they don’t get outside news right?

  6. I we REALLY wanted to get the DPRK regime mad, we’d put up giant targets on the shoreline of every major coastal city, and publicly insult Kim the Current every day that they don’t get hit with something.

    “C’mon, hit it! It’s RIGHT HERE and it is not moving or anything. G’won, hit it! Look, I’ve got a case of Johnny Walker Black right here. Hit the target, it’s yours!”

    1.  You think it’s a good idea to taunt the irrational?  I don’t.  There’s many ways to deliver a nuke, and we’re wide open to lots of them.

      1.  North Chorea (delibarate bad pun) seems unlikely to be able to deliver a pizza anytime soon, let alone a nuke.

        1. I took it to be dismissive mocking rather than sarcasm. Of course the jury is out since we can’t read minds.

  7. Pure speculation, but I’ll bet it’s more in preparation for potential future conflict with (or threat from) China than with the rather impotent N.Korea

  8. Counterforce strikes are always a better option than interception. Better to splash the launchers on the ground than to rely on tech not tested in battle.

    But seriously, how many nukes could NK actually launch? I’m thinking four max and that’s assuming that NK can even build more nukes. Pretty good odds for our interceptors.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that if good intel showed there was a reliable combo of missiles and nukes, the US would smack that shit, Seoul be dammed. I hope Psy has a survival plan. And don’t think Japan might not act independently. They are as likely a target as the US. 

    1. Japan and ROK are even more likely than the US, simply because it would be within their means.  No long-range missiles required.  But for the NK audience, the US is both a sweeter target and sufficiently out of reach that they don’t have to worry about imminent war.

      The “Seoul be damned” preemptive strike is unlikely.  A credible intercontinental attack launching from NK would be… well… incredible.  Unilateral preemptive action by the US or Japan would have to meet a massive burden of proof, as anyone in the neighbourhood would be affected by destabilizing NK and wouldn’t be likely to accept the “sorry, no time” story.

      A tactical strike on NK offensive launch sites can be easily done.  Executing it without stirring up the hornets’ nest is less so.

      1. I don’t think the US would be very hesitant to ruffle some feathers.  Unless, I guess, North Korea decides to build missile launch sites in the middle of populated areas to ensure collateral damage in the event they are taken out.

  9. It would be nice if they had an interceptor that actually worked in a realistic threat / decoy environment.

  10. The most likely target for a North Korean nuke would be South Korea, and there would be no chance of stopping that.  And then the shit would hit the fan.

    If they were suicidal enough to launch against the US, I can only hope the US would not be suicidal enough to launch back.  Because China might not wait until the missiles landed to see if they are aimed at Pyongyang or at Beijing.

    And China might only have a few dozen, but in my world I think a single successful nuke by any country over any city for any reason is one of the worst things I can imagine (the only thing worse being more than one success).

    1.  Japan is actually a slightly more likely target, simply because nobody who throws nukes around wants to be that close to the blast. The obvious primary target is Seoul, as it’s where the government, industry, economy and something like 70% of the population is… but is surprisingly close to the border.

  11. Would China really want the DPRK to have the actual ability, let alone sit still while DPRK actually tried to execute a strike? 

    It’s all fine and good while they’re testing shit underground and failing launches and sabre rattling at a bunch of people toting machine guns, making us all laugh and shit,

    but a smoking hole of radioactive firescapes just 500k+ east of Beijing (whether it be Pyonyang or Seoul) couldn’t possibly be in their best interest, while acting in the interest of world peace and hoisting the flag of China over Pyonyang is an obvious benefit. Not to mention the less than off chance that the DPRK would, oops, drop that shit on their neighbour by accident.

    Easy too for the people of the DPRK to know damn well to give up if China comes knocking, and easy to win them over too, give them food and televisions that work.

    China benefits more than anyone from stability in the region, in a peaceful long game of world domination they have the shortest odds if they aren’t the favourite yet.

    1. You know, I would let the PRC know that if their proxy throws a nuke, then the PRC gets four in return.  That might change things a lot.

      1. And you think that would impress China? I’m pretty sure they know that nobody wants to start a war with them.

        I rather work with China trying to get North Korea to get it finally to snap out of dictatorship and into the path of a democracy.

        1. Engagement with the PRC has not worked.  A new course is long overdue and something that is as direct and simple an equation that even the CCP leadership can figure out what is in their best long term interests and I am pretty sure they would baulk at the math and motivate their proxy accordingly.

          No one need die – yet.

      2.  I don’t think that’d work in any event.  As a Chinese general said back in the Korean War about getting nuked:  “So what if we lose a million or two troops?”

        Their government doesn’t think like we do about people.

        1. I would have to sadly agree with you James, regarding the difference of mindset that can be found with political/military leadership in the PRC.  There is an imbalance between the male/female ratio in the PRC – all due to this old fashion notion of having a male heir to continue the family lineage, thus having a war would solve two problems in the PRC – deflecting societies distrust and hate of the CCP leadership and dealing with the problem of too many males in society.

          Nukes, however, make no distinction in whom they cull.

  12. This is to protect against what now?  A country that can’t get a satellite in orbit and who’s missiles don’t reach beyond Japan?  But at least Raytheon and General Dynamics got their $.

  13. Another escalation.  “We see your half-assed nuclear program and raise you a half-assed missile defense program.”

    Nobody bought into Bush’s Axis of Evil bigger than Obama.  We provoke the North Koreans, we provoke the Iranians, and now we’re either already arming the Syrians or we’re going to.  Why not use some other diplomatic tool than our military all day every day?

    I guess when the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    1. You will need a place, high up where you can also launch homing pigeons and enjoy viewing the surprise when you release the cats that have incendiary devices attached to their bellies.  Considering the old fear of cats many Koreans have, this would be most unsettling.

  14. Any country that’s able to start a nuclear war and does so must know the consequences of their decision,like losing their whole country!

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