The time might be right for an ‘Asian NATO’
There is no question about North Korea’s drive to achieve intercontinental ballistic missile capability. The objective is clear: to be capable of launching a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States. Of course, with Pyongyang’s multiple ballistic missile launches into the Sea of Japan, it was not only a signal to Japan but to the United States as well. Clearly, such actions are destabilizing. However, what is more destabilizing is our failure over the past two decades to address this threat in any concrete manner. Further, we should never forget that North Korea is the “off-site laboratory” for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
For more than 25 years, we have tried to negotiate with one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism and our reward is a nuclear missile-armed North Korea. Economic sanctions have been a complete failure primarily due to the support provided North Korea by China, Russia and Iran. In the darkest days of the Cold War, we were always under the threat of a pre-emptive intercontinental ballistic missile attack launched by the Soviet Union. With the Soviet Union, we believed we were dealing with a controlled, rational leadership, but with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, we are faced with an unpredictable sociopath with a paranoid personality. Complicating matters is the fact that North Korea’s destabilizing actions are being carried out under the protective umbrella of China which, like Iran, is using North Korea as its proxy to further its political objective of achieving hegemony throughout the Western Pacific.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to the Far East made it very clear that the Obama policy of “strategic patience” is over and that all options are on the table. China predictably replied that more talks should be conducted. Naturally, the undercover “holdover” agents from the Obama administration at the State Department also favor non-threatening economic sanctions and more non-productive discussions.
My response to the “more talks” crowd is that China and North Korea must demonstrate they are serious about negotiations by reducing their nuclear missile threat. For example, Pyongyang’s KN-08 and KN-14 mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can target Washington, D.C., ride on 16-wheel transport-erector-launchers (TELs) made in China. These launchers were covertly made in China by the Sanjiang Special Vehicle Corp. of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), surreptitiously shipped to North Korea and revealed in an April 15, 2012 Pyongyang military parade. Therefore, since China claims they want a denuclearized peninsula, it must take back its TELs as a precondition for any talks. According to Japanese reports, there are eight TELs. Recalling these TELs is key since it is what gives North Korea the mobility to launch a surprise nuclear attack against the United States.
Regardless of what China agrees to, we need to move ahead with our plans to protect the United States and our allies from the threat of an attack from North Korea. Three years ago, Rick Fisher and I discussed in a Washington Times op-ed the possibility of creating an “Asian NATO.” At that time, we thought it was premature since many Asian states preferred to cooperate militarily with the United States on a bilateral basis. Further, long-standing enmities between many countries prevented the building of a formal intra-Asian military alliance. However, with continued aggressive actions by China in both the East and South China Seas, plus the expanding nuclear threat from North Korea, this proposal should be revisited.
As a first step for countries willing to participate, initial communication links could be established with our facilities on Guam. A small planning staff should also be established even prior to the establishment of a formal alliance.
Japan could also send a very positive signal by modifying Article Nine of its Constitution. Such a modification would authorize the establishment of a National Defense Force (NDF) and the prime minister would be its commander in chief. Such a change would permit the NDF to defend Japan’s sovereign territory from a foreign attack, and would also facilitate Japan’s participation in an Asian NATO defensive alliance, as well as other international peacekeeping operations. Such a move by Japan would clearly raise the level of deterrence.
Other actions we need to take on an expedited basis are as follows:
- Upgrade our totally inadequate anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. Currently, we have no capability against hypersonic-maneuvering warheads. Fortunately, there is a software that has been tested with an 90 percent-plus kill effectiveness that needs to be installed now in all current ABM systems, including the Aegis SM-6 system, which would completely neutralize China’s anti-ship ballistic missile.
- Harden our electric grid against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. We cannot overlook the fact that North Korea has two satellites (KMS-3 and KMS-4) currently orbiting over the United States. If these satellites are nuclear-armed, they could carry out an EMP attack. We must be ready to neutralize these satellites.
- To restore strategic balance, we need to reinstall tactical nuclear weapons on our deployed submarine forces in the Western Pacific. It also must be made very clear that if North Korea launches a nuclear attack, the nation will no longer exist.
Implementation of the above actions will not only send the appropriate message to our adversaries but reverse a long decline in our deterrent capability.
This article was originally published in The Washington Times.