Can We Shoot Down North Korea's Missile?

Article Highlights

  • The best way to break the logjam with #NorthKorea is to blow Pyongyang’s “satellite” out of the sky. @michaelauslin

    Tweet This

  • The White House decreased its request for missile defense funding to $9.7 billion, a drop of $700 million.

    Tweet This

  • This is the kind of real-world scenario where we better not be betting without holding a flush. @michaelauslin

    Tweet This

That’s what I argue in my Wall Street Journal column today, namely, that the best way to break the logjam with North Korea, prove our commitment to our allies, and make stability more likely in East Asia, is to blow Pyongyang’s “satellite” out of the sky. Reminding Kim Jong Un that we have a stick to use when he brushes off our attempts at the carrot might just make him and his handlers think about their own survivability. 

Obviously, such a plan has risks, such as North Korea deciding to launch a war in response. But I think they’re too canny for that, since they know they would lose everything in such a scenario. I think shooting the missile down now not only won’t lead to war, but is a better approach to ensuring peace, given that we’ve tried repeatedly to negotiate with the North, and have been made fools of, each time.

Philip Ewing, of DOD Buzz, points out another possibility that I didn’t contemplate: that we could “swing and miss,” as he puts it. In other words, try to shoot down the missile and fail to do so. That would not only cause great embarrassment and be a propaganda coup for Pyongyang, but would cause a crisis in our entire missile-defense program. This is a serious concern, but it also is one that we should probably settle earlier rather than later, when we may be dependent on the system to save L.A. or Washington, D.C. 

This year, the White House requested $9.7 billion for missile defense, a drop of $700 million from 2011. This includes money for research, development, testing, and evaluation of Aegis missile-defense ships; maintaining radar systems; and missile systems like the SM-3 and land-based PAC-3 launchers and interceptors. We know we can shoot down missiles in tests, but not with 100 percent success rates. This is the kind of real-world scenario where we better not be betting without holding a flush. Our sea-launched SM-3 interceptors are excellent defensive weapons, but this may be the time to prove how well we can integrate the complex operation of launch detection, tracking, fixing the target, and intercepting, when we’re not the ones doing the launching and all we have to worry about is one target. If we can’t do it now, then the whole program will have to be reconsidered.

Michael Auslin is a resident scholar at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Auslin
  • Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian regional security and political issues.


    Before joining AEI, he was an associate professor of history at Yale University. A prolific writer, Auslin is a biweekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal Asia, which is distributed globally on wsj.com. His longer writings include the book “Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations” (Harvard University Press, 2011) and the study “Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons: Toward a Regional Strategy” (AEI Press, 2010). He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar.


    Auslin has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.


    Follow Michael Auslin on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5848
    Email: michael.auslin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Shannon Mann
    Phone: 202-862-5911
    Email: shannon.mann@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.