Friday, January 14, 2011

Missile Defense Plays A Significant Role In Secretary Gates' North Korea Concern

Gates reviews the PLA Honor Guard during arrival ceremony in Beijing. (USAF Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison)

WASHINGTON | Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), has analyzed the statements made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates this week regarding North Koreas' threat to the U.S. and offered his analysis. Ellison is one of the top lay experts in the field of missile defense in the world. His comments are outlined below:

In Beijing, China this week Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that two things have changed in the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, one of them in a worrying way:

"The first is, with North Korean's continuing development of nuclear weapons, and their development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the United States, and we have to take that into account."

"And the second is clearly a sea change in the attitude of the South Korean public in their willingness to tolerate the kind of provocations the North Koreans have engaged in for many years, but with two just this past year- the Cheonan and the artillery shelling- that their tolerance for not responding has changed. And clearly if there is another provocation, there will be pressure on the South Korean government to react."

Both of these changes have implications on the national security requirements for missile defense; both strategically for homeland defense and tactically for our allies and troops deployed in and around the Korean Peninsula. These national security requirements require more confidence in our technical capability, more integration of the system and more numerical deployed missile defense assets to create higher confidence that our homeland, armed forces and allies are adequately protected. Having a robust, layered and fully integrated missile defense system with high confidence would help stabilize the region, providing extended deterrence to our allies that would curb proliferation and protect their populations.

In the backdrop of the Secretary's visit to China, our nation has made meaningful movements recently in the support of missile defense.

-- Two weeks earlier, President Obama's direct statement in a letter to the Russian Federation made clear that the United States will continue to deploy and develop missile defenses. "It is the policy of the United States to continue development and deployment of United States missile defense systems to defend against missile threats from nations such as North Korea and Iran, including qualitative and quantitative improvements to such systems. Such systems include all phases of the Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defenses in Europe, the modernization of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, and the continued development of the two-stage Ground-Based Interceptor as a technological and strategic hedge."

-- Last week, Secretary Gates cut of $78 Billion from the Pentagon's future budgets; missile defense was not part of these cuts.

-- This week the new majority of the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress lead by Representative Jon Boehner on a three day retreat to discuss the strategy of the Republican Congress for this year. This new majority is lead by its "Pledge to America", to fully fund missile defense and to ensure critical funding is restored to protect the U.S. homeland and our allies from missile threats from states such as Iran and North Korea. 

These movements will have little value without funding increases in the missile defense budget and a significant increase in support and priority towards the U.S. homeland missile defense system. Without these changes the Secretary of Defense will struggle to address the changing status quo on the Korean Peninsula and Iran's current and future capability in nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation. 
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