27 April 2015
U.S. Pushing Destabilizing 'Missile Defense' in Asia-Pacific
The Asia Pacific Phased Adaptive Approach: Current Status of the U.S. and Japanese Missile Defense, and U.S.-led Missile Defense in East Asia
By Ko Young Dae
Solidarity for Peace and Reconciliation in Korea (SPARK)


In its 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR), the Obama administration announced that it would adopt a Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) in the Asia Pacific region, but this has yet to be formalized. Platforms, such as the Patriot system and Aegis Ship, and sensors, such as diverse land-based radars, required for phase 1 of the Asia Pacific Phased Adaptive Approach (APPAA), are already in place. Based on this, there has recently been a speed-up in the building of the trilateral U.S.-Japan-South Korea missile defense, considered the core of the APPAA. Some warn that the allied countries lack formal agreements that clarify and resolve potential controversies surrounding various issues, such as integrated approach, rules of engagement and command and control. But now there seems to have been considerable progress in eliminating such obstacles.

Current Conditions related to Missile Defense between the United States and its Allied Countries in the Asia Pacific Region

U.S. MD System in Northeast Asia

The United States deployed the THAAD (Theatre High-Altitude Area Defense) MD system in Guam in 2013 in response to the so-called threat of the North Korean missile Musudan. The U.S. Department of Defense has requested the deployment of 32 Aegis ships by 2014, and 41 Aegis ships and over 300 Standard Missile-3 interceptors by 2018. As of late 2013, 16 Aegis destroyers had been deployed as part of the Pacific fleet.

In addition, U.S. Forces in Japan deploys 24 Patriot PAC-3 launching pads, and U.S. Forces in Korea deploys 48 PAC-3 launchers (2 battalions) in Suwon, Osan, Kunsan, and Daegu.

U.S. Forces in Japan operates the AN/TPY2 MD radar in two regions of Japan (Shariki Air Self-Defense Force base and the Kyogamisaki Air Self-Defense Force Base), and is scheming to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea.

Japanís MD System

Japanís Maritime Self-Defense Force currently possesses four Aegis ships, and plans to upgrade two of its destroyers to be BMD-capable by 2019 as well as procure two more Aegis BMD-capable destroyers. Japan is jointly developing the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missiles with the United States.

Japan possesses 18 PAC-3 batteries and 36 launchers.

It also deploys seven state-of-the-art FPS-3(advanced model) and 4 FPS-5 radars. It is considering the deployment of a space-based early warning system in the late 2010ís.

Japan is considering the introduction of the THAAD system and plans to deploy the Aegis Ashore SM-3 interceptor missile. Should it acquire all these systems, Japan would have a four-layered missile defense.

South Koreaís MD System

South Korea possesses two PAC-2 battalions (8 batteries, 48 launchers), procured from Germany, and is in the process of upgrading to PAC-3. South Korea also plans to directly procure PAC-3 from the United States.

South Korea also possesses three Aegis destroyers but they are not equipped with interceptor missiles. It plans to introduce three additional Aegis destroyers between 2022 and 2028.

USFK deployment of the THAAD system is becoming a fait accompli, and there is talk of South Korean forces acquiring the THAAD system and the SM-3 and SM-6 interceptor missiles.

Meanwhile, South Korea is in the process of developing M-SAM and L-SAM. The operational deployment of M-SAM is projected for 2018-2019, and L-SAM for 2023-2024.

In terms of sensors, South Korea currently operates the Aegis SPY-1D radar with a detection range of 1000 km along with 2 (Super) Green Pine early warning radars with a detection range of 500 km for Block A and 900 km for Block B.

It plans to construct an AMD Cell by 2015 and interface it with the USFKís TMO Cell.

Australiaís MD System

In cooperation with the United States, Australia maintains several early warning radar sites but currently has no BMD intercept capability.

The Australian navy plans to procure two Aegis vessels to equip them with BMD capabilities against short- and mid-range ballistic missiles.

Distant from Northeast Asia, Australia is only at risk from ICBMs but has no plans to counter such missiles with BMD.

Australia has been participating in trilateral MD discussions with the United States and Japan.

Expectation of THAAD Deployment in South Korea and U.S.-led MD in Northeast Asia

THAAD is not aimed at North Korea but aimed at China

The THAAD systemís effectiveness in intercepting North Korean ballistic missiles is extremely limited. A North Korean short-range ballistic missile, with its short range and low apogee altitude, is difficult to intercept with the THAAD system.

The KN-02, with a range of 120 km, has an apogee altitude that is below the THAAD systemís intercept altitude of 40-150 km.

If launched at a lower angle of fire, the Scud B, with an apogee altitude of 90km, is also capable of evading the THAAD systemís intercept altitude. If launched from north of Pyongyang at a lower angle of fire, the Scud C, with an apogee altitude of 150 km, can also evade the THAAD systemís intercept altitude as it targets South Koreaís capital and central provinces. Therefore, it can only be concluded that THAAD is really designed to intercept Chinaís mid-range ballistic missiles aimed at USFK bases. With a detection range of 1000-2000Km, the THAAD systemís AN/TPY-2 radar is capable of detecting potential threats from missile bases in northeast and central China. Therefore, the THAAD radar can detect Chinaís mid-to-long-range ballistic missiles aimed at the United States and Japan and provide early warning to the U.S.-Japan intercept system.

Some of U.S. and South Korean military officials point to North Koreaís Rodong missile as the reason for the need for THAAD deployment.

But the likelihood that North Korea would attack the South with its Rodong missile is virtually zero. With a range of over 1,300 km, the Rodong missile is a weapon system designed to counter Japan, U.S. Forces in Japan, or U.S. reinforcements in the event of a contingency on the Korean peninsula. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that North Korea would forgo its short-range ballistic missiles, such as Scud B or C, which are much better suited for an attack on the South, and choose to strike with a Rodong missile.

If North Korea were to attack the South with a Rodong missile, it would have to launch it at either a higher or lower angle of fire, but raising the angle of fire slows down its speed and lengthens its flight time, thereby making it easier to intercept. Attitude control also becomes more difficult, thereby diminishing its accuracy.

The Significance of THAAD Deployment in South Korea in U.S.-led MD in Northeast Asia

THAAD deployment in South Korea makes U.S.-led MD in Northeast Asia closer to completion. In terms of information gathering, the THAAD radar would radically expand its ability to detect and track Chinaís ballistic missiles. Along with the PAC-3, it would also create a multi-layered MD system to defend against Chinese ballistic missiles aimed at USFK bases.

THAAD deployment in South Korea means South Korea becomes a U.S. MD outpost against China.

U.S.-Japan-South Korea (Military) Information-Sharing Arrangement for the Building of  U.S.-led MD in the Northeast Asia

The signing of the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military information sharing arrangement is the key to constructing the U.S.-led MD in the Northeast Asia. The United States and Japan are scheming once again the signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between Japan and South Korea.

By linking the MD systems of Japan and South Korea, the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military information-sharing arrangement and the Korea-Japan GSOMIA integrate the U.S.-Japan-South Korea MD systems to complete the Northeast Asia MD system under U.S. and Japanese leadership.

U.S.-Japan-Korea Combined MD Exercises and the Creation of an MD Operational Plan and Command Control Structure

Every two years, the U.S. Strategic Command conducts 'Nimble Titan', multilateral MD exercises, which include Japan, Australia, EU, and South Korea as participants.

Every year, the United States and Japan conduct Keen Edge, a BMD command exercise. Japanís Maritime Self Defense Force is the only military force that has jointly trained with the United States in an exercise that is not a simulation but a kinetic training based-BMD exercise.

Since 2012, the United States, Japan, and South Korea have held combined MD exercises called Pacific Dragon.

The Creation of an MD Operational Plan and Command Structure between the United States and South Korea.

South Korea and the United States have come to agreement on 'the Concepts and Principles of ROK-U.S. Alliance Comprehensive Counter-missile Operations' and based on this, plan to create by 2015 an operational plan (OPLAN) that mobilizes U.S. MD assets.

The mobilizing all of U.S. MD assets in an ROK-U.S. combined operational plan means what used to be an operational plan to defend South Korea from the North would be expanded to become, in effect, an operational plan against China at least in relation to MD operation.

Mobilizing U.S. MD assets in an ROK-U.S. combined OPLAN against North Korea and integrating this with South Koreaís MD means South Koreaís MD will become subordinate to U.S. MD and South Koreaís MD operational command will be according to U.S. strategic interests and under direct U.S. operational command. In the event of a contingency, the United States, which already has wartime operational control authority over South Korean forces, would also exercise control over ballistic missile detection and interception against North Korea and China. While its capability to intercept North Koreaís short-range ballistic missiles remains limited, this increases the probability of South Korean MD assets being committed to the defense of the United States, Japan, and U.S. Forces in Japan, as well as to support Japanís exercise of the right of collective self defense.

On April 16, 2015, U.S. and South Korean military officials agreed to create a 'Deterrence Strategic Committee' to lead in the creation of a combined MD operational plan, including the concretization of the concept of 4D (Detect-Defense-Disrupt-Destroy).

Combined MD Operation and Command Structure between the United States and Japan

Based on information produced through their sensors, the United States and Japan carry out joint operations from their joint operation command center at the Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo. Based on information acquired through their radar, the joint operation command center quickly decides which country has the responsibility of MD interception. In relation to MD, it can be said the United States and Japan have built a truly joint command relationship.

Formation of South Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral MD and military alliance in Northeast Asia, and expansion of NATO into the Asia Pacific region

The relationship between Japanís exercise of the right of collective self-defense and South Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral MD

A key scenario mentioned by the Abe administration [Japan] of its exercise of the right to collective self-defense is that Japan would intercept ballistic missiles aimed at the United States, U.S. bases and/or U.S. naval ships. For this, early detection of ballistic missiles fired from North Korea or China is pivotal, and this would be premised on South Korea, the United States and Japan sharing information about ballistic missiles from North Korea and/or China and forming a trilateral MD.

By signing the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military information-sharing arrangement and becoming an axis in the trilateral MD, South Korea effectively assumes a supporting role in the exercise of collective self-defense by Japanese Self-Defense Forces, which seeks eventual invasion on the Korean peninsula.

Formation of South Korea-U.S.-Japan military alliance based on construction of trilateral MD

The construction of a trilateral MD system among South Korea, U.S. and Japan means building a trilateral military alliance. The three countries will accelerate combined MD training exercises and intensify maritime interdiction trainings, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) against North Korea, to expand the military relationship between Japan and South Korea in the areas of operations and logistics assistance and advance the trilateral relationship to a (quasi) military alliance. The U.S. and Japan are also pushing for signing the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA).

Meanwhile, should South Korea decide to acquire an SM-3 interceptor missile in the future, it will most likely procure it from Japan, and this would make South Korea, which may also import F-35 parts from Japan, dependent on Japan in the area of logistics.

The construction of the South Korea-Japan MD and military alliance raises the possibility that South Korea will become a subordinate partner to Japan and under Japanese control across the board in the areas of information, operations, and logistics. Furthermore, we cannot rule out the possibility that, with Japanís exercise of its right to collective self-defense, South Korea could be partially under the control of Japanís tactical operation in a South Korea-U.S.-Japan combined operation against North Korea and/or China.

Prospects of APPAA, Expansion of NATO into the Asia Pacific region and Structure of Confrontation in Northeast Asia.

During his visit to South Korea and Japan, Martin Dempsey, Chair of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff, announced, ďWe're making progress on building an integrated air and missile defense umbrella, (and) both the (South) Koreans and the Japanese have made some commitments in procurements on their side to make us more interoperable.Ē

Dempseyís comment signals that APPAA, with the U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral MD as its basis, is making significant progress. From now on, the key points in the APPAA will be the coordination of interests and an agreement that reflects all partiesí interests regarding the level of the interface of MD assets and radars among South Korea, United States, Japan, and Australia, the exercise of command and control, and rules of engagement, etc.

Meanwhile, the South Korea-U.S.-Japan military alliance, combined with the U.S.-Japan-Australia (quasi) military alliance, builds a front line surrounding North Korea and China in the Asia Pacific region.

Also, the South Korea-U.S.-Japan trilateral alliance will merge with NATO, which already expanded to the Asia Pacific region when countries in the region joined it through individual partnership - South Korea in 2012, Australia in 2013, and Japan in 2014.

The APPAA, combined with the Middle East Phased Adaptive Approach (MEPAA) and the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), would build MD on a global level and bring about the formation of a multilateral military alliance in the Asia Pacific region as well as a global military alliance.

The U.S.-led construction of a global MD and military alliance is provoking strong opposition from China and Russia. This can result in the creation of a structure of Cold War-like military confrontation in Northeast Asia between the U.S.-Japan-South Korea-Australia versus North Korea-China-Russia.

The Vice Foreign Minister Conference among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, held in Washington D.C. on April 16, 2015, and the fourth International Security Conference centered around North Korea, China and Russia, held in Moscow, symbolically represent the rising military tension based on the building of MD and military alliances in the Asia Pacific region.

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