NEWS

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

The United States has welcomed Japan's planned introduction of a land-based variant of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, but there are growing calls in Washington for Tokyo to acquire strike capability to further boost deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threat.


American experts say the deployment of Aegis Ashore will be a significant step in strengthening Japan's missile defense, but that even such an advanced platform is not perfect for interception, especially because North Korea is stepping up its ability to launch multiple missiles simultaneously.

"With North Korea demonstrating increasingly sophisticated missiles and threatening to sink Japan with nuclear weapons, Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe should consider making strike capability a top priority," said Jeffrey Hornung, a Washington-based political scientist at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank.

In a meeting Nov. 6 with Abe in Tokyo, President Donald Trump underscored the "unwavering" commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan, including extended deterrence backed by the full range of US nuclear and conventional defense capabilities, according to the White House. Trump urged Abe to purchase more defense equipment from the United States.

Japan's Prime Minister Abe (left) shakes hands with President Donald Trump during a visit Nov. 6, 2017. (Photo from White House Flickr.)

But it was not known if Abe and Trump discussed Japan's potential adoption of strike capability, or what some refer to as "counterattack capability," as the US envisages Tokyo acquiring the ability to undertake retaliatory strikes against an opponent's missile facilities and supporting infrastructure, as opposed to first-strike capability.

Such capability would surely bolster security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and alliance management between the United States and Japan, a development that security experts say would be effective in deterring any kind of attack against the two countries.

Some argue the resounding victory by Abe's ruling coalition in the Oct. 22 general election could stimulate debate in Japan about the possible pursuit of strike capability, especially as the Defense Ministry plans to draw up its next five-year plan for defense procurement and update the National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2018.

"Prime Minister Abe has the political capital and the reasoning to begin to talk more specifically about the need to prepare or consider counterattack capability," said James Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, citing the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister's Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

"I think the chance of that happening or that becoming a more high profile issue is greater now as a result of the election," Schoff said.

Referring to the political stability in Japan after Abe's victory, Hornung said, "Now the Abe administration can have a more long-term view about defense policies and what capabilities they want to acquire in the years ahead."

Also Read: Here's the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

Debate about Japan adopting strike capability gathered steam in Abe's Liberal Democratic Party following the simultaneous firing on March 6 by North Korea of four ballistic missiles — three of which landed within Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan — and Pyongyang's announcement that the action was a drill simulating a strike on US military bases in Japan.

On Aug. 6, Abe said in a news conference that "at this point," he was not considering acquiring such capability. North Korea, however, has continued to increase its bellicose threats and provocative acts against the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

(Photo from Rodong Sinmun.)

Pyongyang conducted intermediate-range ballistic missile launches over northern Japan into the Pacific on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15, as well as its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, with the detonation of what it said was a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Sept. 13, Pyongyang's Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said, "The four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb" launched by North Korea, and that "Japan is no longer needed to exist near us." The committee issued a similar warning on Oct. 28.

With North Korea accelerating development of deliverable nuclear weapons that could reach as far as the United States, Pyongyang has suggested it could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean — a threat that prompted Japanese defense officials to speculate that a nuclear-tipped missile may fly over Japan.

Schoff and Hornung recommend that Japan pursue strike capability in "a modest form" so that it will not become too expensive. They also stress the need to make sure that such capability falls within Japan's exclusively defense-oriented policy, because the issue would be politically sensitive not only domestically, but to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China.

Maj. Toru Tsuchiya (right), Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Japanese F-35A foreign liaison officer and Lt. Col. Todd Lafortune, Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin, F-35 acceptance pilot, shake hands Nov. 28 during the arrival of the first Foreign Military Sales F-35 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Schoff said the proposed measure, therefore, should not involve hardware such as long-range strategic bombers and attack aircraft carriers, but equipment like Tomahawk cruise missiles for Aegis-equipped destroyers and air-to-surface missiles that can be loaded onto new F-35 stealth fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force.

"You don't want to spend your whole defense budget on this capability that you hopefully will never have to use," he said.

Despite the likelihood that Seoul and Beijing would criticize Tokyo for "re-militarizing" itself with the proposed capability, Hornung said Pyongyang's advancing military capabilities have "drastically changed the threat environment."

"If the existing ballistic missile defense system has gaps, any means for Japan to strengthen its deterrence capabilities should be welcomed," he said. "Japan no longer has the luxury to be complacent about its security threats."

Entertainment

5 times Americans left to fight in foreign wars

In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world's most ruthless terrorists.

You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.

"I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil," says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. "But you can never understand the brutality that they're capable of until you see it with your own eyes... Most people in America aren't able or willing to come over here," he says. "And for them, I will carry what weight I can."

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Melia Robinson

Why splitting California into 3 made the November ballot

Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.

Draper's proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018's general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Christopher Woody

Why China's President warned Obama about 'immature leaders'

Days after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Barack Obama left the country for his last trip abroad as president.

The trip took him to Greece, Germany, and finally Peru, where he attended the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Throughout the trip, anxious world leaders greeted Obama, inquiring about the man who would soon occupy the Oval Office.

That sentiment was on display in Lima, where "Obama was pulled aside by leader after leader and asked what to expect from Donald Trump," the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in his memoir of his time in the White House, "The World as It Is."

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
John Haltiwanger

Trump and Mattis go 'good cop, bad cop' on Putin

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.

Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

"President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country and didn't respect Ukraine," Trump said.

Keep reading... Show less

5 things about the M16A4 that you complained about

The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it's actually despised by a lot of Marines.

Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn't exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They're accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they'll find it's not the most reliable rifle.

Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

The Army has a dream team working on its robotic future

As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.

The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.

Keep reading... Show less