Missile Defense and the Korean Peninsula - What is the Problem?

Written by Cheong, Wooksik (http://www.peacekorea.org/english)
on March 6, 2009

Translated by Agatha D. Haun


'ROKS Sejong the Great (DDG 991) during the 2008 Busan International Fleet Review'

The reality of the partition of the Korean peninsula is certainly also revealed in the US's plan for a missile defense (MD) system. That is because North Korea, as the chief pretext for the promotion of MD, became the central issue in persuading South Korea to serve as the advanced base for the US's MD system. The Obama administration, which has just been inaugurated into this maelstrom, is more cautious about MD than the era of the Bush administration was. On the other hand, the Lee Myeong Bak administration, which regards the ROK-US "strategic alliance" structure as the supreme diplomatic and security policy objective, is more positive about MD than the Kim Dae Jung and Ro Mu Hyeon administrations were. Just at this point, the unsynchronized movements of the latest South-North-US three-party relationship are hidden. Furthermore, since MD dominates the complicated structure of relations between the US-Japanese alliance and the Chinese-Russian collaboration system, if the ROK clumsily inserts itself into that, it will not be a case of "bridge-building" between continental power and sea power; the ROK can be degraded as a "scapegoat". While such a situation is also developing in Northeast Asia, the ROK could find itself in a position like that of Poland, where the US-Russian controversy over the installation of an MD system in Eastern Europe resembles a "Second Cold War".

For the ROK, there are three categories of MD projects. First, the US is deploying an MD system inside the ROK; second, the government is promoting what it insists is an independent "Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD)". These two kinds are the models that are moving forward at present. And for the third, there is a question of whether the ROK will officially take part in the US's MD system. Of course, these three kinds are not completely separate. Participation by Poland and the Czech Republic in the MD system, disputed between the US and Russia, doesn't mean that these countries are purchasing the MD system, rather they are permitting the US to station its MD system on their territory. Similarly, without any connection to official announcements, the deployment of the US's MD system in the ROK can by itself be taken to mean that the ROK is already taking part in the MD system. Also, even though there is a political and diplomatic difference between the KAMD and official participation in the US's MD system, there is a close connection in the sense that there is no option but to integrate them in terms of military technologies.

The ROK's MD plans

Since the Lee Myeong Bak government was inaugurated, signs of a subtle but important change in the ROK's policy on missile defense have appeared. Above all, the Lee Myeong Bak government is giving impetus to the construction of the KAMD that had been considered at the time of the Kim Dae Jung and Ro Mu Hyeon governments and was in the initial phase of promotion. Military authorities have announced a plan to sink an estimated 300 billion won (250 milion dollars) into a "missile tracking and interception operations control center (AMD-Cell)", which will have full charge of the mission of monitoring and intercepting North Korean missiles, and to construct it by 2012. They also decided on a plan to buy early-warning radar with a detection range of about 500 km, and a plan to complete the selection of the kinds of apparatus, focused on the Israeli Elta company's Green Pine and the French-Dutch joint Thales Raytheon Systems company's M3R, by April this year and to make the purchase next year. In addition, in stages, from this year to 2011, three Aegis vessels' AN/SPY-1D(V) radar will be deployed on active duty, and four units of the aerial early warning system (AEWS), scheduled to be introduced by 2012, will also play the part of the ROK MD's "sensor".

Together with this, the plan is that 48 Patriot-2 (PAC-2) missiles brought from Germany by this year and medium-range surface-to-air missiles, called "Soot-2", will take on the role of the ROK MD's interceptor missiles. In order to enhance the interception capability, they are investigating the possibility of gradually installing missiles, including the SM-6, on Aegis ships, and the second SAM-X project for additional interceptors. Since the Lee Myeong Bak administration was installed, these are the most important indicators that tell us that the "ROK type of MD", forming a line of interceptor missiles -- sensors -- operational control centers, appears to be starting in earnest .

When we look at it in political terms, KAMD can appear to be independent. However, when we consider the special character of the military structure known as the ROK-US mutual defense system, and the nature of its interoperabilities, joint MD military operations with the US are unavoidable. USFK commanders constantly emphasize the point that the KAMD must be combined and employed with the US's system. Also, concerning participation in MD, the ROK's Minister of Defense likewise said in February this year that, "An investigation at the national strategic level is necessary, considering the ROK-US alliance and the security conditions on the Korean peninsula, the budget requirements, etc." While this kind of ROK type of MD appears to be independent, in actuality it seems that most probably it will be integrated into the US system.

How much will it cost?

An extravagant sum of money is required for MD, so much that in the US, it is known as "the goose that laid the golden eggs" to the military sector and "money-swallowing hippopotamus" to the taxpayer. If that is the case, how much will the ROK's MD participation cost in economic terms? Of course the appropriation is different, depending on the scale and components of MD. The PAC-2 that the ROK is purchasing from Germany costs a trillion won [about $0.7 billion], and if they upgrade this to the PAC-3, it will cost as much as an additional one trillion won [about $0.7 billion]. It is estimated that it would also cost as much as one to two trillion won [about $0.7~1.4 billion] to equip three Aegis vessels with SM-2 Block 4 and SM-6, as well as SM-3 that are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles. Moreover, 250 billion won[about $172 million] will be sunk into an early warning radar system, two trillion won [about $1.4 billion] for an aerial early warning system (AEWS), 300 billion won [about $207 million] for a missile tracking and interception operational cont00rol system, 500 billion won[about $344 million] for a "Soot-2" system, and so on.

If we put this all together, just the cost of acquiring them amounts to five to seven trillion won[about $3.4billion~4.8billion]. If we include in this the necessary operation and maintenance expenses, which are usually about twice as much, the total cost of the system skyrockets to about 20 trillion won[about $14 billion]. In a situation where many people face a threat to their survival because of extreme economic difficulty, fundamental questions must arise about whether it is truly appropriate to use for mirage-like weapons systems many tens of trillions of won of tax money squeezed out of the citizens.

The best thing to do is to cancel MD!

In this case, whether it is an ROK MD, or participation in the US MD, while MD cannot give real protection against the threat of North Korean missiles, squandering such an enormous amount of money on a device that will give no protection means increasing the tension in South-North relations, intensifying the arms race on the Korean peninsula, and provoking uncertainty in relations with China and Russia. Expenses related to MD, if they include the fatal maintenance costs, amount to several tens of trillions of won[about $20~30 billion] .

In addition, North Korea's intention to reinforce the military strength of its missiles, and desire to incapacitate the ROK-US MD, are related to the reinforcement of the ROK-US MD's capabilities. It is an arms race between the "spear and shield". While the US intends to press ahead with stationing an MD system in Eastern Europe, an emerging "Second Cold War" could also be revived in East Asia. That is because North Korea, and of course China and Russia, also are focusing their attention on the East Asia MD system, in which the US is taking the leading role. For this reason, before the ROK falls into the MD morass, the Lee Myeong Bak administration must make a choice that takes into consideration the economy, the national interests and regional peace.

* Note by No Base Stories of Korea*

_ The conversion price from won to dollar is based on the approximate price of 1$=1450 won in March, 2009.

_ Cheong, Wooksik’s most recent English translated writing is
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Text fwd: North Korea’s Satellite versus US-ROK Joint Military Exercise

_ Related site (Site info. provided by Cheong, Wooksik)
South Korea to Complete Missile Defense by 2012

_ Related site
The Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea


Writer, Wooksik Cheong is one of the founding members and the representative of Peace Network, a non-governmental organization formed in 1999, working for peace and disarmament in the Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula. The reason that he founded the Peace Network was that he felt so sad about the North Korean humanitarian tragedy. He thought that this tragedy would be resolved by making peace and reducing military spending on the Korean Peninsula. While striving hard to realize these goals with his colleagues since then, he recognized that it was much difficult to achieve them in the short-term. He has worked as a full-time staff member from the beginning of Peace Network to the present. As a peace activist, an independent researcher, and a journalist, he has organized many campaigns and conferences, written books and essays, and made speeches both in Korea and abroad. He is the leading member of the Korean committee for the International Conference against the Asia Pacific Missile Defense and for the End of Arms Race, Seoul, South Korea, April 16-18, 2009 and is one of the main speakers in the April 17 symposium program of the conference. The conference program will be officially updated soon. (wooksik@gmail.com)

Translator Agatha D. Haun is a PhD from the Stanford University, in Japanese and Russian. Her other studies are in European and Asian languages, history, social sciences. She has done Post-doctoral study at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Peace activist and free-lance translator for non-governmental organizations in Europe and Korea. She often loads her translated works to the website of the Tlaxcala, the ‘translators’ networks for linguistic diversity’. (dillardhaun@gmail.com)


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