Guam, Japan prepare for possible North Korea missile launch

SANTA RITA, Guam. An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam. Naval Base Guam supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hagatña, Guam (CNN) North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the US-territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.

In a statement last week, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, said the plan to fire “four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets … to signal a crucial warning to the US” would be ready by “mid-August.”

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

A notice put out by Guam’s Joint Information Center Saturday warned residents how to prepare “for an imminent missile threat.”

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the note said. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”

Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.

Japan missile defense deployed

On Saturday, some of Japan’s land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors began arriving at Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) bases in three of the four prefectures any North Korean missiles would likely fly over en route to Guam.

Pyongyang identified three of those areas — Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures — in its statement last week.

A spokesman for SDF said the missiles were being deployed not to intercept missiles, but rather “just in case.” He did not elaborate.

Sim Tack, a senior analyst for private intelligence firm Stratfor, said the Japanese batteries are designed for protecting the area where they are deployed, “(they are) not meant to shoot missiles out of the sky as they pass over Japan at high altitude.”

“So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn’t have a function to serve in this particular case,” he said.
Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense Scenario

The SDF spokesman said the country’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system was deployed in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but would not give a specific location.

Aegis is able to track 100 missiles simultaneously and fire interceptors to take out an enemy’s ballistic projectiles.

In South Korea, where both the military and civilians are used to facing threats from North Korea, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned the country’s armed forces “to maintain full readiness” to “immediately punish with powerful force” any action against the South.

“Recently, North Korea made its habitual absurd remarks that it will turn Seoul into a sea of fire and that it will strike near Guam,” Song said according to ministry official. “North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the international community.”

Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month. The annual exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, are expected to run from August 21 to 31.

Calls for calm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders have called for calm as both Pyongyang and Washington upped their saber-rattling rhetoric.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled down on his statement that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued its threats, saying in a tweet that “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against North Korea.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xi told Trump in a call between the two leaders Saturday all “relevant parties parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described escalation as “the wrong answer,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump’s statements were “very worrying.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English criticized Trump’s “fire and fury” comments as “not helpful in an environment that’s very tense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to work with North Korea to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions,” following a call with Trump Saturday.

Washington has previously said it will consider talks with Pyongyang if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program, a pre-condition North Korean officials have described as a non-starter.

Guam waits for news

At a church in central Guam Sunday, parishioners sang “Lord, we pray for world peace” after discussing the potential North Korean threat.

“There’s a lot of disbelief going on, there’s a lot of anxiety,” Father Paul Gofigan told CNN after the mass.

Gofigan said there is not a lot of panic in Guam, and that people’s faith — the island has been overwhelmingly Catholic since the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 17th century– has been on display in recent days.

“Faith is so deeply rooted into our culture,” he said.

The territory’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and the President’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Saturday.

“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote on Facebook. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”

As an unincorporated US territory, citizens of Guam cannot vote in general elections. The island is also home to a large US military presence, a fact that has led to tension with some local residents, particularly those of the indigenous Chamorro community.

“Nobody really deserves to be caught in the middle of these games,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an activist who campaigns for a lowered military presence.

“You’re playing with people’s lives. We just want peace, we just want to continue to enjoy our lives here.”


Japan, U.S. to mull quicker missile defense upgrades, deployment of Aegis Ashore

Missile Defense Agency – Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The Japan Times, 27 June 2017

Japan will consider increasing the pace of upgrades to its ballistic missile defense system in cooperation with the United States as the allies race to meet the threat posed by an effective increase in the speed of North Korean missiles, a Japanese government source said.

A proposal to adopt a land-based Aegis missile defense system known as Aegis Ashore will be the main topic of a Japan-U.S. foreign and defense ministers’ meeting in Washington next month, the source said Sunday.
The Defense Ministry will request a budget for fiscal 2018 starting in April to include funds required to prepare for an Aegis Ashore deployment, according to the source.

SM-3 Land-based Missile Launch

The number of Maritime Self-Defense Force ships with the Aegis missile defense system may not be enough to shield all of the Japan against North Korean ballistic missiles if they are launched with a higher trajectory to make them fall faster and at a steeper angle, the source said.

Japan now has six Aegis destroyers, with four capable of intercepting ballistic missiles. The government is upgrading the remaining two destroyers to give them the same capabilities and plans to deploy two new ones.
While the Aegis system uses SM-3 missiles, Tokyo and Washington are jointly developing SM-3 Block 2A missiles with improved coverage and accuracy.

A North Korean missile launched on May 14, believed to be a new medium-range type, traveled some 800 km before falling into the Sea of Japan after reaching an altitude of over 2,000 km, according to the Defense Ministry.

Renewing Polish-US Leadership within NATO [OPINION]

Defence24, By Richard Weitz, 30 May 2017

The Trump administration needs to highlight how well Poland is bearing its collective defence burdens, which underpin the alliance’s Article 5 mutual security guarantee, as a complement to criticizing allies that are falling short. Public praise of exemplary partners could generate positive momentum in other countries seeking favor with the new administration and Congress in Washington – as Richard Weitz is writing for Defence24.

One issue U.S. President Donald Trump invariably raised at the May 25 NATO summit was allied contributions to U.S. security. Poland should welcome such a dialogue given its outsized contributions in this domain. Indeed, the summit, which formally focused on burden-sharing and counterterrorism cooperation, provides an opportunity for Poland and the United States to renew their partnership to strengthen the alliance in coming years.

Even before his inauguration, Trump ceased calling NATO obsolete, demanding the alliance focus on counterterrorism rather than collective defense, or threatening not to fulfill U.S. security guarantees to countries that he saw as failing to meet their transatlantic defence requirements. Under the current administration, the United States has continued plans and programs under U.S. Operation Atlantic Resolve, endorsed by the July 2016 Warsaw Summit, to strengthen the U.S. military presence in Europe, including for the first time establishing an enhanced and enduring U.S. Army presence in Poland as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.

Nonetheless, the U.S. President has made clear to various European leaders visiting the White House that he is dissatisfied with the overall imbalance in transatlantic defence spending.  Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and other U.S. national security leaders have amplified how having the United States account for some three-fourths of all NATO defence spending undermines the long-term foundations of the alliance.

Of course, Poland need not fear a transatlantic dialogue focused on capabilities and contributions, especially when burden sharing is properly interpreted in operational as well as financial terms. Not only is Poland one of the few countries that regularly meet NATO guidelines for spending two percent of national GDP in defense, but Poland routinely supports U.S. international security programs and strives to make Polish capabilities compatible with those of the U.S. military. Polish leaders insist that their country is a global security provider.

Last December, the Defence Ministry announced that Poland would spend more than $14 billion on new weaponry in the next five years. The procurement priorities include unmanned systems and helicopters, surface and sub-surface naval assets, cyber defences, and building one of the best high-tech national air-and-missile defense networks in the world. This budget boost will provide new niche capabilities to NATO and opportunities for Polish, U.S., and other defence industrial partners. Polish-U.S. contracts under negotiation provide for extensive work-share arrangements, technology transfer, and opportunities for joint sales to third parties.

The new Concept of Defence of the Republic of Poland, announced on May 23, establishes the goals of enhancing the country’s self-defense assets, deepening ties with Poland’s main security partner, the United States, and bolstering Poland’s role in NATO and EU collective defence efforts. The Concept thereby builds on Poland’s pivotal role linking the EU with NATO, specifically the Baltic-Scandinavian regions with transatlantic security partners, above all the United States. The new U.S. administration benefits from Polish insights on how to build better NATO-EU ties even as the organization, mission, and capabilities of the two organizations are in flux. Of imminent joint concern, the departure of the United Kingdom from the Union deprives Poland and the United States of their closest partner within the EU.

The Concept’s viewpoint, seen also in Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski’s speech at last year’s Wrocław Global Forum, is multi-directional, addressing potential threats from Russia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Besides meeting long-standing concerns about territorial and collective defence, Poles have courageously placed themselves in terrorist cross-hairs by their vigorous support for the U.S.-led counterterrorist operations in Afghanistan and the greater Middle East.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski.

For both Poland and the United States, having a robust spectrum of national and alliance capabilities to apply in a range of scenarios is critical given the rapidly evolving international threat environment.From this perspective, the Polish decision to acquire more submarines is noteworthy, since these vessels are mobile platforms that can help Poland with national and regional (Baltic Sea) deterrence as well as contributing to multinational power projection, including overcoming adversary Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2AD) barriers.

Both countries anticipate addressing common external security threats within a multinational context. For example, the acquisition of more submarines and attack helicopters, compatible with NATO and U.S. standards, will provide the capabilities to maintain Polish-U.S. leadership of the Proliferation Security Initiative. Launched at a presidential summit in Kraków at the end of May 2013, the initiative pools national activities to impede the international trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) related materials, delivery systems, and their components.

A centerpiece of Poland’s security upgrades is its commitment to the so-called Wisla program, the nation’s new and fully modernized integrated air and missile defence system. To complement the expanding U.S. Army presence in the country, and as a testament to Poland’s importance for the United States, Poland has been granted special permission to buy a key component of Wisla, the U.S.-made Integrated Air and Missile defence Battle Command System (IBCS) even before the U.S. Army deploys it. The system will function as the future command, control, and communications system for all U.S. Army air and missile defence assets, integrating the service’s radars, interceptors, and related systems to attain “any-sensor, best-shooter capability.”

In coming years, the Polish and U.S. national defence communities will be tightly tied together as they jointly develop the system’s potential. Among other advantages, the IBCS will allow each unit to protect a larger area, promote synergies among a wider range of systems, and limit wasted interceptors and other costs. In adopting the IBCS, Poland can meet its national defence requirements, such as protecting its planned expanded fleet of attack helicopters from a wider range of threats, while also contributing to Polish-U.S. regional security goals.IBCS supports additional foreign partnerships, cost-saving, and standardization by allowing any country–with appropriate hardware, software, and training—to integrate national air and missile assets with Polish and U.S. systems.

Starting next year, a U.S.-run an Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defence System, which will include SM-3 Block IIA interceptors, will be operational in Poland. This long-range system will help defend Europe’s population and territory, and U.S. forces based there, from future missile threats from Iran or other Middle Eastern countries. Poland has long sought to integrate its air defences with those of NATO. Poland’s acquisition of shorter-range Patriot air-and-missile defence batteries will provide a shield for the SM-3 battery as well as for U.S. and other NATO reinforcements rushing to Poland’s defence in the face of a challenging air and missile threat environment.

Building this robust network of improved air and missile defence will make NATO members such as Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom more comfortable deploying forces in Poland and the Baltic States (the defence of both being inseparable) in peacetime as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence—addressing a concern that allied governments will not sustain these rotations sufficiently long to serve as a credible deterrent to aggression and reassurance to vulnerable partners.

The Trump administration needs to highlight how well Poland is bearing its collective defence burdens, which underpin the alliance’s Article 5 mutual security guarantee, as a complement to criticizing allies that are falling short. Public praise of exemplary partners could generate positive momentum in other countries seeking favor with the new administration and Congress in Washington.

There are likely still different perspectives between Washington and Warsaw regarding the urgency of further NATO membership enlargement, transatlantic trade and investment treaties, and other issues. Still, the NATO summit provides a great opportunity for Poland and the United States to deepen their reciprocal defence cooperation in Europe and beyond.

Richard Weitz is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at Hudson Institute. His current research includes regional security developments relating to Europe, Eurasia, and East Asia as well as U.S. foreign and defense policies.