But What Can The United States Do In Response?
The nuclear rhetoric between the United States and North Korea
ratcheted up dramatically Tuesday, with the Communist stalwart
asserting its self-proclaimed sovereign right to test a
long-range missile -- one capable of hitting the United States.
It appears the government of Kim John Il has completed fueling
the Taepodong-2 missile, and is ready for launch as early as
Wednesday, weather permitting.
"I think it is a very serious development," said Leonard
Spector, Deputy Director of the Monterey Institute's Center for
Non-Proliferation Studies, to ANN. "We have had a pause in this
problem area with the Koreans since 1998... and to see them change
their posture, and to go back to increasing capabilities, is very
unfortunate... as are the capabilities of the missile."
As Aero-News first reported
Saturday, the Taepodong-2 is a two-stage follow-on
design to its earlier Taepodong-1 single stage missile (shown at
right), which the country first tested in 1998.
While believed to be fairly inaccurate,
the Taepodong-2 -- with an estimated range of 9,300 miles
-- could reach as far as the US West Coast. Depending on what
warhead is used... it could cause considerable damage, regardless
of its precision.
In response to North Korea's posturing, the US has reportedly
activated its ground-based missile defense system... which is
admittedly imperfect. "It's a very rudimentary system," said
Spector. "It's not at the point where it could shoot down a missile
with any kind of confidence."
Mark Kelso, chairman of social sciences at Queens University in
Charlotte, NC, tells ANN that North Korea may very well get away
with testing the missile... as the US has few military options
"It's somewhat difficult for the US to take action in these
circumstances, because of it's increasing political isolation" over
the Bush administration's handling of foreign affairs over the
past few years -- which rules out much of a chance of any
US-led coalition against North Korea.
"You have the potential of setting off a major war," Kelso
added, "that would make the Iraq War look like a minor
By sheer coincidence, the United States is just now beginning a
massive military exercise in the Pacific. The exercise, called
"Valiant Shield", has been in the works for months... and will, for
the first time, include a delegation of Chinese military
Valiant Shield will involve 30 warships, 280 aircraft... even
elements from the US Coast Guard.
Given the advanced planning for these maneuvers off the coast of
Guam... is this the US sending a message to North Korea? Not
likely, say military experts.
Instead, the US is emphasizing that the exercise is open to
observation, and certainly not meant as a provocation. Then again,
as practice makes perfect... US military officials say the exercise
will take place again next year... and will become a biennial event