US missile defense shield to counter North Korea threat

  • Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands.
  • Guam is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government.
  • The island was controlled by Spain until 1898, when it was surrendered to the United States during the Spanish-American War and later formally ceded as part of the Treaty of Paris.
  • As the largest island in Micronesia and the only U.S.-held island in the region before World War II, Guam was captured by the Japanese on December 8, 1941, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and was occupied for two and a half years. During the occupation, the people of Guam were subjected to acts that included torture, beheadings and rape, and were forced to adopt the Japanese culture.
  • Guam was subject to fierce fighting when U.S. troops recaptured the island on July 21, 1944, a date commemorated every year as Liberation Day.
  • Today, Guam’s economy is supported by its principal industry, tourism, which is composed primarily of visitors from Japan. Guam’s second largest source of income is the United States military. (from wikipedia)

(from the New York Post) AP, WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is deploying a ballistic missile defense system to Guam to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region’s protections against a possible North Korean attack.

Word of the shield’s delivery came Wednesday as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called North Korea’s latest belligerent rhetoric a real and clear danger and threat to the U.S. and its allies.

Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System is the latest step the U.S. has taken to bolster forces in a show of force aimed at countering the North Korean threat.

The Pentagon already has sent bombers, stealth fighters and ships to the area.

Tensions have escalated between North and South Korea in recent weeks. The North has vowed to increase production of nuclear weapons materials and threatened a pre-emptive strike against the U.S.

Worries in Washington rose Tuesday with North Korea’s vow to increase production of nuclear weapons materials. Secretary of State John Kerry called the announced plan “unacceptable” and stressed that the US is ready to defend itself and its allies. But he and other U.S. officials also sought to lower the rhetorical temperature by holding out the prospect of the North’s reversing course and resuming nuclear negotiations.

At a joint news conference with visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Kerry said the U.S. would proceed “thoughtfully and carefully” and in consultation with South Korea, Japan, China and others.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a call late Tuesday to China’s defense minister, called the North’s development of nuclear weapons a “growing threat” to the U.S. and its allies.

Hagel, citing North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in his phone conversation with Chang Wanquan, said Washington and Beijing should continue to cooperate on those problems, according to a Pentagon statement describing the call.

Michael Green, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it should be no surprise that North Korea is vowing to restart a long-dormant nuclear reactor and ramp up production of atomic weapons material.

“This is part of their protection racket,” Green said in an interview. “I think the end state North Korea would like is that we, the U.S. in particular, but also China, Japan, South Korea, are so rattled by all this that we decide it’s just better to cut a deal with them.”

Tensions have flared many times in the six decades since a truce halted the 1950-53 Korean War, but the stakes are higher now that a defiant North Korea appears to have moved closer to building a nuclear bomb that could not only threaten the South and other US allies in Asia but possibly, one day, even reach US territory.

That explains, in part, why the US is displaying military muscle to warn the North to hold its fire.

Washington also wants to leave no doubt that it has the South’s back, and that Seoul should not act rashly. Nor does the US want South Korea to feel compelled to answer the North’s nuclear drive by building its own bomb.

“We are in the business of assuring our South Korean allies that we will help defend them in the face of threats,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said, adding, “We are looking for the temperature to be taken down on the Korean peninsula.”

Even without nuclear arms, the North poses enough artillery within range of Seoul to devastate large parts of the capital before US and South Korea could fully respond. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, and it could call on an array of air, ground and naval forces to reinforce the peninsula from elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific.

In just the past few months, North Korea has taken a series of steps Washington deemed provocative, including an underground nuclear test in February. In December the North Koreans launched a rocket that put a satellite into space and demonstrated mastery of some of the technologies needed to produce a long-range nuclear missile. And several weeks ago, the North threatened to pre-emptively attack the U.S. …

In response, the Pentagon announced it would beef up missile defenses based on the US West Coast, and it highlighted over a period of days the deployment of B-52 and B-2 bombers, as well as two F-22 stealth fighters, to South Korea as part of an annual US-South Korean exercise called Foal Eagle, which lasts through April.

On Tuesday, officials said the Navy was keeping the USS Decatur, a destroyer armed with missile defense systems, in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula for an unspecified period instead of continuing its journey back to the US after a Mideast deployment. And they said a similar ship, the USS McCain, had been shifted slightly to the waters off the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula as a further precautionary move.

North Korea has been an enigma to most outsiders since it was founded by Kim Il Sung in 1948. The United States has often misjudged the North’s political path. After the founding Kim died in 1994, for example, US intelligence officials said they believed his successor son, Kim Jong Il, would be more accommodating to the West.

“Flaky as he may be, (Kim Jong Il) nevertheless … realizes the only way they’re going to extricate themselves from the shambles that their economy is in now is to get outside help,” James R. Clapper Jr. told a congressional panel in January 1995. Clapper was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time; today he is President Barack Obama’s most senior intelligence adviser as director of national intelligence.

From a report by the Associated Press. Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Post.


NOTE TO STUDENTS:  Before answering the questions, read the “Background” below.

1. How does U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel describe North Korea’s latest threats?

2. Describe the threats made by North Korea.

3. Describe the U.S. responses to North Korea’s threats. Be specific:
a) the Defense Department’s response
b) the State Department’s response
c) Do you think both responses are correct for these different government departments? Should the Department of Defense not take such a strong stand and should the State Department take a stronger stand against North Korea’s threats? Explain your answers.

4. What does Asia expert Michael Green believe to be North Korea’s motive for its latest threats?

5. How do the AP reporters who wrote this article interpret U.S. Defense Department response to North Korea? (What do they base this on?)

6. What immediate danger does North Korea pose to South Korea?

7. Re-read the last two paragraphs of the article. What do you think the reporters are implying by these statements?

CHALLENGE QUESTION: Read the commentary by Rich Lowry on missile defense at: nationalreview.com/blogs/print/343314
Although North Korea has not carried out any of its recent threats, do you think Mr. Lowry is correct in saying we should have a good missile defense system rather than “simply trust that a lunatic regime running its country like a vast prison camp will rationally calculate its self-interest as we would hope [before attacking the U.S.]“
Explain your answer.

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