From the Heritage Foundation:
A Missile Defense Wake Up Call
Barring a sudden change in weather, sometime tonight North Korea will likely launch a multistage rocket over Japan, far into the Pacific Ocean. The Kim Jong Il regime is claiming the launch is a test of their civilian satellite program, but it is widely understood that this claim is just a pretext for testing their Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile.
A 2001 National Intelligence Estimate by the U.S. Intelligence Community assessed a two-stage Taepo Dong-2 could target Alaska, Hawaii, and the western United States while a three stage missile could threaten all of North America with a nuclear warhead. And just last week the Washington Post reported that U.S. and independent intelligence experts agree that North Korea has built or is attempting to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit on its ballistic missile arsenal.
Whether a ballistic missile or a “satellite,” the North Korea launch will be in direct violation of United Nations Resolutions 1695 and 1718. The U.S. response to the North Korea launch should be swift and strong: 1) Demand that all U.N. member nations fully implement the existing sanctions of U.N. Resolutions 1695 and 1718 and request a firmer follow-on U.N. Security Council resolution that imposes stronger punitive measures as well as a deadline for compliance; 2) Urge South Korea and China to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to better defend against North Korean proliferation of missile- and WMD-related technology and components; and 3) Continue U.S. and allied missile defense development and deployment.
That last item may just be the most important. According to a 2008 report by the International Crisis Group for the U.S. Army War College, North Korea has become “the greatest supplier of missiles, missile components and related technologies” in the developing world. North Korea has sold missiles to Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. When Iran launched their long-rang Safir missile in February, they used North Korean missile components and technical support. And Pakistan’s mid-range Ghauri missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead, is actually a renamed North Korean Nodong.
President Barack Obama has been, at best, incoherent on his support for missile defense. February’s Iran Safir missile launch and this weekend’s Taepodong-2 launch should serve as a wake up call to this administration. The realities of today’s world demand a strategy to protect and defend the U.S. and its allies. The Cold War strategy of retaliation-based deterrence is insufficient. Ballistic missile defenses are therefore an essential component of a protect-and-defend strategy for the 21st century.