With the probability of a hot war with North Korea being increasingly likely, one may wonder why the US military (nor Japan’s by the way) did not even try to intercept/shoot down the short-range ballistic missile launched by the Pyongyang regime on Monday, a missile that flew right over US ally Japan’s mainland. The short answer may be that US military’s record of successfully intercepting/shooting down intermediate range ballistic missiles is not perfect.
And apparently, that less than perfect record is making the decision to attempt an ICBM/whatever BM interception much harder, because who wants to fail during such a mission? Vanity is military’s greatest sin after all. However, we must remember how President Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mad-Dog Mattis threatened to shoot down North Korean missiles aimed at Guam in the very recent past, yet both Japan and US let that last Pyongyang rocket fly right over a very densely populated territory. And the question is why?
Immediately after the Monday test, President Donald Trump reiterated that decades old rhetoric with regard to North Korea, the “all options are on the table” thingy. Rhetoric aside, the Pentagon seems to be very reluctant with regard to using its (33) Aegis warships which are perfectly able to (at least try) intercept and shoot down intermediate range missiles, just like that Hwasong 12 launched by North Korea’s military on Monday over Japan. Currently speaking, there are 16 Aegis warships deployed in the Pacific, i.e. this is not a matter of logistics/lack of military gear.
US Pacific Command in Honolulu was asked about their lack of reaction with regard to Monday’s missile test:
“North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,”
According to Mad Dog Mattis, any North Korean missile that was believed to land in the sea would require the President’s decision about what to do about it. Basically, if the military decides a rocket is not specifically aimed toward US mainland/Guam or other territories, it will not get shot down by default. In the last 15 years, the US Defense Department managed to intercept/shoot down 29 out of 37 mid ranged missiles (like the Hwasong 12) using an SM-3.
North Korea argues that the US shooting down one of its test missiles aimed at the sea would constitute an act of war. And that’s why both the US/Japan militaries are not very eager to attempt the shooting down of a North Korean missile, as it’s not worth the costs of a) potentially missing and embarrassing themselves or b) starting a war which may be catastrophic for both North and South Korea.
As Ellie Wiesel put it: When someone says they are going to kill you, believe them.
And thus, the following questions arise:
When my enemy is strong, how can I negotiate?
When my enemy is weak, why should I negotiate?
Should the free world wait for North Korea to finish building a fleet of nuclear tipped missiles embedded in hardened bunkers and positioned on mobile launchers and submarines, enough to destroy every major city in Japan, South Korea, U.S. etc, which is their stated goal?