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Boost-Phase Intercept Is Still the Best Defense against the North Korean Nuclear Threat

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket (Reuters/Korean Central News Agency)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket (Reuters/Korean Central News Agency)

We have the technology to protect our regional allies and ourselves from a North Korean missile strike without upsetting China. We should deploy it.

Arthur Herman writes: Newly elected South Korean president Moon Jae-in made it official last week: His government will delay deployment of the US-built Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system (THAAD) for two years. THAAD remains South Korea’s only viable defense against a surprise missile attack by its rogue neighbor to the North. But China — which has expressed concerns that THAAD might be turned on to intercept its missiles if it decides to attack South Korea, and that the system’s highly advanced radar could be used to peer into PRC airspace — put the diplomatic and economic screws to the leftist Moon until he obligingly and predictably caved.

The excuse given is that the South Korean government needs to do an “environmental impact assessment” of THAAD. “We are not saying the two [THAAD] launchers and other equipment that have already been deployed should be withdrawn. But those that have yet to be deployed will have to wait,” an official with the presidential office told Korean media. No one expects that promise to be kept. Beijing will not be happy until every trace of THAAD is gone from South Korean soil and the rift that suspension of deployment has caused between Washington and Seoul is permanent.

What this means is that the one remaining option for effective ballistic-missile defense against the North Korean threat is now, and always has been, the plan I previewed here in late March: a boost-phase-intercept system using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with conventional interceptor missiles.

Anti-missile systems such as THAAD, AEGIS, and Patriot only shoot down a missile as it re-enters the atmosphere toward the end of its flight, narrowing the margin for error and increasing the chances of collateral damage. Destroying the missile in its earlier, “boost” phase, while it’s still … (read more)

via National Review

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