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North will use ICBMs in war: U.S. general

Apr 05,2019
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “certainly” has plans to use intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) against the United States if conflict on the Korean Peninsula breaks out, Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, chief of the U.S. Northern Command, said on Wednesday.

“North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and ICBMs remain an immediate concern,” O’Shaughnessy told the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces in a hearing on missile defense policies and programs. The general is also commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

O’Shaughnessy said in a written testimony that Kim developed strategic weapons “to deter the U.S. from overthrowing his regime, and he almost certainly has plans to use them against our homeland should a conflict erupt on the peninsula.”

He added that North Korea’s ICBM program “turned the corner” in 2017 after Pyongyang’s successful testing of multiple ICBMs and a thermonuclear device.

Yet O’Shaughnessy added that he is “cautiously optimistic that North Korea can be convinced that it is in their best interest to abandon its nuclear weapons and ICBM programs.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said last week that it successfully shot down an ICBM target in a test by launching two ground-based interceptors (GBIs) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

This is considered the first salvo test of its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, a U.S. antiballistic missile system for intercepting missiles in the midst of their ballistic trajectory flights. It is designed to strike ICBMs coming from potential threats, such as North Korea.
O’Shaughnessy said he is “confident in the ability of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System to defend the United States against ICBMs fired from North Korea.”

He also said, “This test clearly shows that [the enemy] would not be able to achieve their objective, which leads to our ability to deter” and “prevent a conflict from ever happening because they know they can’t reach their objective.”

When asked what message the latest test can send to someone like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, John Rood, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said during the hearing, “I think it sends a very strong message about the credibility of our capability and reinforces deterrence.”

The U.S. missile defense system offers both defensive and offensive deterrence, and Rood continued, “If you are Kim Jong-un, or another adversary, you have to think about first, the probability that your attack will be successful, and then secondly, even if we successfully defend it against an attack, an attempt to incinerate an American city — the story wouldn’t end there: we still would retain our offensive capabilities.”

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska responded that the U.S. missile defense capabilities offers “double deterrence” and a message to Kim Jong-un and others that, “It won’t work, and we’ll flatten your country after you try.”

Rood also said in his written testimony that while “North Korea has not tested nuclear-capable missiles in over a year,” it still possesses a “range of systems” including road-mobile ICBMs, solid-propellant medium-range ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs.

He requested $1.8 billion for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to protect the United States, which includes adding 20 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI), bringing the total to 64, and new discrimination radars in Alaska and Hawaii.

The Pentagon is also working to enhance its Aegis ballistic missile defense system and procure additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) interceptors and Patriot interceptors.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said in his testimony that in 2016 and 2017, North Korea conducted over 40 launches of missiles of all ranges, including two new ICBMs.

The Pentagon is continuing to “improve the system reliability” of its seven deployed Thaad batteries, including those used in Guam and by the U.S. Forces Korea, he added.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]