Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Curious Incident of the ROK in the Nuke-Time

Japan and South Korea have taken measures to protect their citizens in case of a military clash to stop North Korea's quest for nuclear missiles. Is South Korea's silence most significant?

As political scientist John Delury stated regarding the “pre-emptive strike” scheme for a March 10 report, “The role of a South Korean president, whether liberal or conservative, is to be the person who gently takes that option off the table. The South Korean president has to be saying, ‘If you take out their missile pad, they take out our capital.’ But that hasn’t been happening.”

Perhaps the decline of North Korea's military and a change of focus by South Korea to battlefields north of the DMZ make the South Koreans no longer believe that the only way to protect Seoul is to avoid angering North Korea, as I wrote 9 years ago:

If a crisis erupts on the Korean peninsula and the North Koreans fire even a warning barrage at Seoul, I expect the South Korean army to march north of the DMZ and carve out a no-launch zone in an arc around Seoul to protect their capital and home to a quarter of the population from North Korean artillery.

Maybe a new balance of power is why that warning to stand down hasn't been happening.

UPDATE: It appears we are more worried about North Korea lashing out in fear than in putting a lot of pressure on North Korea:

The United States, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea's latest failed ballistic missile test, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser said on Sunday, citing what he called an international consensus to act.

H.R. McMaster indicated that Trump was not considering military action for now.

I suppose if Trump is planning to lead a US-South Korea-Japan strike, that's the message he'd want out there, of course.

UPDATE: In light of the failure of the North Korean missile test and the lack of a nuclear test, the crisis seems to be abating.

Chinese pressure was likely the factor for the latter (assuming the test is postponed for other than technical reasons).

But given the expectations for a strike that were building up should the North Koreans have done something this weekend, the failure of the missile test was convenient for the Trump administration, no?

One Trump administration official declined to comment on a question of whether we had something to do with the missile failure. So did we do something? Was there an airborne (or maybe sub-carried if it surfaced) laser (or AESA-type beam) that could have struck the missile on launch without being detected?

Sure, there is some speculation out there that it might have been cyber interference, but if we did something I'm going to guess cyber is just the trendy plausible explanation put out to keep the real cause secret.

I did sketch out a layered anti-missile defense (that has only gotten better since that 2008 post) that included boost-phase counter-measures. Did we use one of those?

Putting pressure on North Korea would be served if they thought we were willing to strike if they did something and only the fact that they didn't do something (a successful missile test or a nuke test) held us off.

Sheer, wild-eyed, no-evidence speculation on my part, of course. I don't even think I believe we could pull something like this off. But I do have a good imagination.

UPDATE: US-ROK air exercises (regularly scheduled Max Thnder) will continue for the balance of this month.

UPDATE: Completely unrelated news:

The directed energy weapon is “rapidly moving” from the conceptual to the practical, he said in late March. [Air Force LTG Brad] Webb recently visited MIT Lincoln Labs to view its advancements, and saw Naval Sea Systems Command Dahlgren’s latest efforts to network all of the various components within the aircraft.

He was impressed by the improvements that had been made.

Could we have an early version of the airborne laser that we were willing to use on the North Koreans?

Probably not. The simplest explanation for the North Korean missile test failure is that the technology is not developed yet.

And it doesn't hurt to make enemies wonder, I suppose.