TCS Daily


The Missiles Behind the Elvis Summit

By Austin Bay - July 5, 2006 12:00 AM

The scene had a decidedly surreal quality: Before an amused and startled crowd that included President George W. Bush, a rock star-struck Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi crooned in the Jungle Room of Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion.

Koizumi performed a karaoke-influenced interpretation of Elvis' "Love Me Tender," then, strumming an air guitar, mimicked the King of Rock 'n' Roll's version of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Pop celebrities, an homage to Elvis, an international mocker gawking with affable goofiness -- the television cameras couldn't get enough of the public kitsch.

The real story of this summit is cement, however, not kitsch -- the cement of a solid 21st century American-Japanese alliance.

As the Cold War faded in the early 1990s, several Japanese opinion leaders questioned the U.S.-Japan relationship. With Russia no longer an immediate threat, development of Siberia's natural resources enticed Japan -- and in that game, America represented competition. U.S. military bases on Okinawa were a particular thorn.

Many Americans carped that wealthy Japan failed to carry its fair share of the defense burden -- ironic, given Japan's constitutional military limitations imposed by the United States after World War II.

But times change, and so do threats.

The six North Korean missiles on Tuesday are big news, but they aren't the strategic shocker. The shocker occurred in August 1998, when Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile. That launch revitalized the United States-Japanese alliance and blew away any legitimate arguments that the United States could wait to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses.

Pyongyang's 1998 test shot demonstrated that Japan and the United States -- and for that matter, Europe -- are vulnerable to rogue missile attack, and it's utterly false to argue otherwise. It meant U.S. diplomacy and the world economy are potential hostages to missile blackmail by regional tinpots.

Japan got North Korea's message. The Japanese also observed China's steady military modernization and concluded the logical, most impressive and most reliable "strategic balance" to China is the United States.

Japan and the United States began discussing a "joint ballistic missile defense shield" that would protect Japan, Alaska and Hawaii. Of course, such a system would also provide South Korea with a degree of protection, as well as the continental United States.

On June 23 of this year, the United States and Japan signed an agreement to jointly produce anti-missile missiles. The agreement formalized the existing (though often behind-the-scenes) cooperation on anti-ballistic missile (ABM) technology.

U.S. and Japanese military cooperation includes surveillance and tracking operations. A new early warning X-Band radar system is located at a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture. A U.S. spokesman said the radar would gather critical data on North Korean missile launches.

The United States will send several batteries of Patriot PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) anti-theater ballistic missiles to protect Okinawa. The PAC-3, unlike the Patriot PAC-2 of the 1991 Gulf War, is a true anti-missile missile. However, its range is limited and it is ineffective against long-range, high-speed intercontinental ballistic missiles. Still, the PAC-3 will add to a "layered" ABM defense that includes interceptor missiles on board U.S. Aegis cruisers and the handful of long-range ground-based interceptors located in Alaska and California. If the situation dictates, Okinawa-based Patriot batteries can quickly move to Japan and South Korea.

In May, the Honolulu Bulletin reported that the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie successfully intercepted a target missile using an improved U.S. Navy Standard-2 interceptor missile. The Lake Erie also test-fired an advanced Standard-3 anti-missile missile. Japan has destroyers with the Aegis radar system, which can detect and track ballistic missiles. The Japanese destroyers would operate as electronic eyes for a regional ABM system.

The United States and Japan are also exploring ways to more effectively integrate U.S. and Japanese ground forces. The Japanese military has participated in overseas operations and gained experience. For two years, Japan deployed 5,500 troops in Iraq, and they served quite effectively with other coalition forces.

North Korea recently threatened "annihilating strikes and nuclear war" if the United States launches a pre-emptive attack on Pyongyang's missile and nuclear weapons facilities. Bluster? Possibly -- but SCUDs splashing in the Sea of Japan say otherwise. If bluster turns to bombs, Washington and Tokyo intend to be ready.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and TCS Daily contributing writer.

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8 Comments

Two systems
There are two missile defense systems in development. The one Bay describes is short range, ship based, and tries to distroy the enemy missile during its first minutes of flight when its engines are still firing. As Bay says, this has had several successful tests. The other is the ABM (star wars) system being deployed in Alaska, which has not had a successful test under anything like realistic conditions: http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002515.html .

Boost phase interception is easier. The lit rocket engines make homing easeir. While accelerating in the atmosphere, decoys are not possible.

It makes sense to deploy the former and continue development and testing of the latter. It does not make sense to spend billions deploying a disfunctional ABM system in Alaska.

Alaska -- its about bluffing, not actually working
It's simple: The NKs (and anyone else) have to be extremely sure that the Alaska ABMs don't work. For all they know, test results released publically showing poor performance/reliability could be an 'evil disinformation campaign' to make them think otherwise.

Paraniods are very susceptable to manipulation via reverse psychology.

That alone makes it worth building. Besides, someday we will make it work. It's only a matter of time.

Check your facts
Boost phase is not easier because of the short response time, and the SM-3 has had many successful tests.

Here is a better resource:

http://www.missilethreat.com/systems/index.html

missle defense
So much for left wingers saying that the Japs don't want the Americans in their country. As I've always maintained, they're really happy about it, and this article shows again how much. Re NK though, of course it's sensible for the US and Japs to have missle defense systems, but they're more need for potentially serious enemies. With NK it's more a matter of political theater. It's the only way they know of to shake everybody down for more freebies; their system is what some political scientists call 'militant mendicacy'. Like a sqeegie kid who threatens to break your headlight if you don't pay him for schmearing up your windshield with the dirty squeegy he stole from a gas station.

Geography is everything - - - -
Right D. NK misslies, however, are very geographically vulnerable to early boost phase interception because infra-red homing antimissiles can be based close their launch pads. The launching missiles are big, slow-moving, fat targets giving off a huge signal to home on. Even some spec. ops. guys in the hills above the present launch pads with shoulder fired antiaircraft rockets could knock them down, not to mention ships or barges, with larger ones, off shore on both sides of the peninsula. Of course we should have a layered defense; going up, in space, and descending. If the boost phase interceptions of their test shots should fail, well our other layered interceptors need the target practice. How would you like to be the US President faced with an instant decision to retaliate to nuclear missiles apparently headed toward the US, without the option of interception? Think about it.

Japan a new member of the Anglosphere
PM Koizumi's enthusiasm for Elvis is emblematic of Japanese youths' enthusiasm for all things American. And it's really cool to see American youth enjoying very Japanese things. Not just Nintendo and PlayStation, but Bapes and anime and sushi and all that.

Japan is now among a select few unconditional allies in the world, previously united by the English language. More and more, this alliance will be united by prosperity, freedom, low barriers to trade, and willingness to confront true evil in the world.

Don/geog
OK Don, I agree with all that. But perhaps you misunderstood me since I'm not a native speaker of English I sometimes don't say what I mean. So I do mean to say that I indeed think it good that the US and Japs work together on layered missle defense(after all you can't depend on working with those post-modern europacifists anymore). But rather my point was rather that NK is not one of the serious enemies I aluded to. Sure they can play around with their toys but I don't really think they are even considered serious weapons systems by them. They are only used to extort freebies from others. After all, they know that if they used such weapons they would lose their pitiful country, and the dictator there cares more about retaining power than anything else in the world.

And another thing - - - - -
D, thanks for your thoughtful comments, I do always appreciate them. I agree with your points. I was discussing strategy & tactics that would be effective, and cheap to execute in terms of money and blood expended, in case we did want to do something.

Europe is not immediately threatened, and Oldeuropeans would probably like to see the US nuked by NK, out of that old all-too-human sin of envy, just to take us down a peg. Our ultimate strategy should probably be to apply, what we call "tough love". Oldeuropeans are like spoiled brats (i.e., children), defensless and resentful.

After the Iraq dust-up is over, we should probaby let the rest of the West (except Isreal) defend itself and not try to save Oldeurope from the Arabs, nor the NK, nor Iran, nor UBL & Co.. In the inevitable new wars, we'd be the least affected, let them slit each others' throats to their hearts' content.

Cheers, Don

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