North Korea is developing road-mobile ballistic missiles capable of reaching Guam, the Aleutian Islands and potentially Hawaii, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's director said, citing the agency's growing concern at a recent Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee hearing.
Road-mobile ballistic missiles are on top of North Korea's ongoing attempts to further develop its long-range ballistic missile system Taepodong-2, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Though still in development, the Taepodong-2's range could also include Guam, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
North Korea's ballistic missile threat "continues to grow as our potential adversaries are acquiring a greater number of ballistic missiles, increasing their range and making them more complex, survivable, reliable, and accurate," stated Vice Admiral J.D. Syring's July 17 testimony before the Senate subcommittee.
"The missile defense mission is becoming more challenging as potential adversaries incorporate ballistic missile defense countermeasures," Syring stated.
Missile test impact
Syring told the Senate committee of the agency's plan this year to demonstrate the ability of an integrated ballistic missile defense system to defeat two near-simultaneous ballistic missile threats.
More missile test flights scheduled for next year will include two launches of Minuteman III test flights from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California. Guam, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia are invited to read a supplemental environmental assessment of next year's tests, in part because during the tests, missile components "will impact within the Exclusive Economic Zones of Guam, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia," a July 29 Air Force announcement states.
The Missile Defense Agency director told the Senate subcommittee of plans to beef up the country's comprehensive U.S. missile defense system amid U.S. lawmakers' calls for the military to run on a tight budget. "We will also deliver more interceptors for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense ... and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ... as we look for ways to make them more operationally effective and cost-effective," Syring testified.
About this matter, let us remember that After North Korea made specific mention of Guam when it issued threats to launch missile attacks in April and May, the Defense Department responded by sending a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which includes truck-mounted interceptors, to Guam. The THAAD interceptors are capable of shooting down a ballistic missile both inside and just outside the atmosphere, reducing the risk of fallout from an enemy's weapons of mass destruction.
The THAAD missile defense system has had a 100-percent success rate -- intercepting 10 out of 10 tests since the program began in 2006, a Missile Defense Agency test report released earlier this month states.
A June 24 Congressional Research Service report on Ballistic Missile Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region mentions that, in response to North Korea's threatening actions and statements in early 2013, the Pentagon decided to deploy a THAAD system to Guam two years ahead of schedule.
"Pyongyang has declared its intent to develop a nuclear-armed ICBM, but North Korea's longer range missiles capable of reaching Guam, Alaska, or the continental United States appear unreliable and in some cases are untested," the report states.
The congressional report does raise concern of the longer term implications if North Korea's missile tests continue. A 2013 Defense Department report on military and security developments involving North Korea assesses that Pyongyang will move closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile capability if it continues to test missiles and to devote scarce resources to nuclear programs, the congressional report states.