The ICAS Lectures


Defending Against North Koreaís Nuclear Missile Threat

Rebeccah Heinrichs

ICAS Spring Symposium

May 17, 2016, 1:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Hart Office Office Building room 216
United States Senate
Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: Rebeccah Heinrichs

Defending Against North Koreaís Nuclear Missile Threat

Rebeccah Heinrichs *
Fellow, Hudson Institute

May 17, 2016

David Lee: Before I begin, Iíd like to thank Dr. Kim for the opportunity to introduce our next distinguished speaker. Rebecca Heinrichs provides research and commentary on a range of national security issues, and specializes in nuclear deterrence, missile defense, and counter proliferation. Her work has appeared in major news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and Investorís Business Daily as well as political journals such as Politico and The Hill. Rebeccah has served as an adviser on military matters and foreign policy to Representative Trent Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and helped launch a bi-partisan Missile Defense Caucus. Rebeccah holds a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic policy from the US Naval War College. She graduated with highest distinction from its College of Naval Command and Staff, receiving the Directorís Award for academic excellence. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Ashland University in Ohio, and graduated from the Ashbrook Scholar Program. Please join me in welcoming Rebecca Heinrichs.


Rebeccah Heinrichs: Good afternoon. Iíd like to thank my hosts for inviting and also thank those of you who came out to participate in this really important event. The threats to US and ally security are more complex now than perhaps they have been in recent decades. The threat from nuclear weapons, thatís one. The threat from nuclear and conventional missiles. I have argued over the past several months that we really have entered a new missile age. Proliferation is common. Many states have ballistic missiles, and many states sell them to entities that are hostile to the United States. But thereís another danger that President Obamaís two terms, and even this recent presidential election that weíre currently in, I think have laid bare another danger to US security and Ally security that has been laid bare for all of us to see. And itís a problem thatís not new to our allies in South Korea, and that is the danger of our citizens both in South Korea and the United States no longer supporting or understanding the alliance.

In many ways, President Obama has pursued an approach to foreign policy that has extended an open hand towards enemies and those hostile to the United States, and has required allies to sort of sit back and be patient and sort of deal with the undesirable consequences. When allies are invaded and their requests for help go unheeded, as we have seen with Ukraine, it will leave many wondering "Why the Allies?" Or when Secretary Clinton pursued another arms control treaty with the Russians, when all the evidence points towards the likelihood that she and President Obama knew the Russians were currently in violation of another arms control treaty, the INF treaty, testing nuclear missiles able to strike allies with precision and with little warning. Or when Secretary Kerry flew to China to suggest that perhaps expanding missile defense cooperation with Japan might be unneeded if China could agree to pressure North Korea on its missile and nuclear programs.

So we should ask ourselves why, according to one poll, a majority of South Korean people think it might be wise for Seoul to actually acquire their own nuclear weapons and askew the nuclear umbrella of the United States. Mr. Trumpís questioning the logic of the US nuclear umbrella is shocking. Itís shocking because we have the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party questioning one of the pillars of US foreign policy. But he is merely saying aloud what many Americans and South Koreans have been thinking. And this, I would submit, is a problem. In 1954, the United States and South Korea signed the ROK-US mutual security agreement, committing the defense of the other. In 1978, they formed a combined forces command, the common threat, of course, between the two states: North Korea. In the 1960s, the country was one of the poorest that the world had. But now, of course, it is one that is very economically prosperous. Its democratic system is imperfect but still young. And it is a democracy. The ROK government has continued to invest approximately 2.5% of its GDP to its national defense, one of the highest among US allies. The US-South Korean government continues to have the same shared interests that it did in 1954 to some degree, but we should be making the case again and again that the alliance is even more critical, I would argue now, than perhaps then. And that today, with increasingly complex threats challenging the technologically superiority of the United States in key domains, and shifting world powers and alliances, now is not the time to be doubting the necessity of the alliances of free peoples versus alliances of non-free peoples. Peace is maintained and wars are won with alliances. And so that is one challenge in the coming months and years for the political leadership of both allies, the United States, and the Republic of Korea. Making the case of the alliances to the citizens of their own countries, each generation must be reminded and persuaded not only that it is useful, but that the alliance is in and of itself, a good thing.

Okay so that was a long time to emphasize that one point, but I think given the current presidential election, I think that thatís something that we all should really kind of take upon ourselves and move forward in the next months and years and take that. All political leaders and Congress need to do a better job of explaining these things that we have taken for granted over the years, I think.

Now to the threat of North Korea, our common adversary. First, does the brutal, provocative and nuclear armed North Korean regime actually pose a threat to the United States? Many here in Washington still question that. Does it have the intent to pose a threat to the United States? Does it truly have the intent, or is it merely just being provocative? And does it have the capability to actually follow through on its threats? In recent months, Pyongyang has increased the seriousness of its threats to include preemptively attacking, with nuclear weapons, both the United States and South Korea, during the alliesí annual joint military exercises. This comes on the heels of North Koreaís fourth underground nuclear explosion, and yet another long range missile test in the form of a satellite launch. Perhaps its most concerning missile is the KNO8, which Admiral Gortney, then Commander of Northern Command at the time, testified before Congress, could deliver a nuclear weapon to much of the continental United States. Although the regime leader is in the habit of making empty threats, the United States cannot afford to bank on the hope that its leader is crying wolf. Analysts who view international relations with the rosier and more idealistic outlook remain skeptical. They try to tamp down such ominous threat analysis, like that of Admiral Gortneyís, and are quick to point out that the regime has yet to actually master the capability to deliver a long range missile. North Korea has yet to demonstrate that it can actually launch a missile and that the re-entry vehicle can actually successfully re- enter the atmosphere. And because that is so technically challenging, many say that what it has demonstrated is simply not enough to believe that it actually has an ICBM threat, and perhaps that it has not actually acquired the capability to actually miniaturize the nuclear material and actually put it on that missile. But it has demonstrated enough technological prowess to give the Pentagon the confidence that it likely could do it, however imprecise its targeting might be. So what Admiral Gortney has testified is that through modeling, based on the information that we do have and what we have seen in their tests, that when we put that through modeling exercises that we should presume to believe that the North Koreans would have that capability even if what theyíre trying to target isnít withinÖ theyíre not able to actually precisely target what they would intend to target. But again, all you need is a land mass the size of the United States, and so even just the threat of launching serves a purpose. So the poor accuracy of a missile, especially one with a nuclear weapon, enables the North Koreans to credibly threaten and blackmail the United States.

Skeptics continue to insist even if North Korea were to achieve the ability to attack the United States with a nuclear weapon, it simply would not, not because doing so would be irrational counter to its national goalsÖ That it would not do it because it would be counter to its national goals, chief among them regime survival. You will constantly hear that the regime is mainly trying to survive, and that we shouldnít take its threats seriously. However, the reality of a regime like North Korea, one of the most repressive countries in the world, in which its people face murder, torture, enslavement, rape, labor camps at the hands of their own government, must cause analysts to admit their own limitations in predicting with certainly what the regime is willing and is not willing to do. Violent provocations remain central to North Koreaís strategy. We could have very little warning of a North Korean asymmetric provocation. Therefore, the United States must urgently deploy increased defensive measures. And then Iíll be specific.

First, for what the United States must do for our own protection here at home. The United States must fully resource and bolster defense of the US homeland from ballistic missiles. The Obama administration has requested $400 million less than last yearís enacted amount for homeland missile defense. That is the component of the ballistic defense system specifically meant to protect the United States from long range missiles. Itís there to protect specifically even against North Korean missiles, although it does provide some protection against Iranian long range ballistic missiles. Itís called the ground-based mid-course defense system, or GMD. Congress should restore funding to last yearís level and fully support additional sensors to improve discrimination capabilities. One of the big concerns our military has about North Korea is this KNO8 missile. Itís a road-mobile missile, so theyíre able to roll it out and prepare for a launch in a much shorter timeframe than the non-mobile missiles. The United States must continually upgrade this system, as well as invest in promising technologies that would give the United States the ability to intercept missiles while they are in their boost phase, before they can release decoys and countermeasures meant to evade the US defenses. Again, USÖ the policy of the United States on missile defense is to provide protection against limited ballistic missile threats. North Korea has long been viewed as posing a limited ballistic missile threat to the United States. But as weíve seen over the years, the North Koreans continue to surprise us. Every time they launch another satellite, we were surprised at how much further it went, the altitude that it achieved. The various stages that the missiles that theyíre achieving. And so I think that North Korea is continuing to actually shrink that gap between what we considered a complex missile threat and what we considered a limited missile threat. That gap is beginning to shrink and so it doesnít make much sense in my view to continue to keep a policy of only providing protection against rogue states and not providing protection against more complex threats as that gap continues to shrink.

Second, the United States must show a commitment to the protection of South Korea. It should, in cooperation with South Korea, move for with the deployment in Seoul, of the defensive Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System. This is THADD. China is protesting the deployment, saying that it would degrade Chinaís highly formidable offensive missile force. This is exactly what Russia does to the United States when the United States wants to deploy a missile defense system to Europe. It complains that it will degrade its offensive force, and it protests it. And China has been watching what Russia has been doing, has noted that it has done so with some success and sort of making demands on the United States in other areas, and using the missile defense deployment towards allies as a chess piece in its large chess match. And so China is protesting the deployment saying it would degrade its missile force, although THADD could not diminish Chinaís offensive force. The United States should refuse to give credence to the immoral and debunked theory that stability is maintained and that Americans are safer if the United States intentionally remains vulnerable to Chinese missiles. So what Iím arguing here is thatÖ this has not just been a partisanÖ This is not just the Obama administration; the Bush administration did this as wellÖ We continue to argue both to the Russians and the Chinese that the systems were not made to defend against them Ė theyíre not. But I think at this point, what weíre doing by continuing to try to persuade China, and I believe that China knows full well that THADD will not actually degrade its offensive missile force, that we should take away that argument, and simply continue to work with South Korea for its own defense, and for our own defense, regardless of the objections of China, as it pertains to missile defense specifically.

The next US president must take a new tack towards North Korea altogether. Among other things, the United States must persuade China and Russia to implement current sanctions. The recent sanctions are a great improvement, but they will not be enough unless we can persuade China to actually, and meaningfully implement them as well. And we cannot ignore the evidence that the Chinese entities have assisted Pyongyangís missile program. When North Korea conductedÖ had one of its most recent military parades, analysts noted very clearly that one of the vehicles was of Chinese origin, and the Secretary of Defense was asked in an open hearing if it was true that we suspected that China was helping with the North Korean missile program and he was able to confirm in an open hearing that we believe that Chinese entities to some degree are helping with the North Korean missile program. That is something that we cannot tolerate.

Related, the United States must initiate new efforts with allies to disrupt North Korean nuclear and missile proliferation and cooperation with other nations. Iran has been one of North Koreaís primary clients when it comes to ballistic missiles. The recent JCPOA, agreed to by the United States in the P5+1, does not include ballistic missile testing for Iranians. The UN security council resolution that was passed the same time the JCPOA was, calls upon Iran not to test ballistic missiles. But it is not binding and it does not have anything to do with the actual JCPOA. So even though Iran continues to do this, the JCPOA will continue, and they will continue to get sanctions relief. So we should fully expect Iran to continue its ballistic missile program, and we should not be surprised when that Ė the money that goes back into the Iranian economy and the ballistic missile program of the Iranians, benefits the North Koreans as well.

And with that, I would just reiterate the first point that I made that each government will have to communicate with its citizens why the alliance remains critical; what the alliance is actually trying to accomplish, and that if deterrence does fail, that the United States and ROK forces will be prepared to fight side by side. With that I look forward to your questions. Thank you.


Peter Huessey: Rebeccah, thank you so much for your remarks. I have just some very brief questions. Could you clarify the extent to which you think the intelligence community of the United States does or does not believe North Korea has miniaturized its nuclear warheads and can launch a ballistic missile to some portions of the continental US.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Sure, the intelligence community has said in open hearings that we do believe that North Korea has achieved the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead. And they have also said Ė Admiral Gortney has testified that Ė we do believe that North Korea does have the capability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the continental United States, that is true. With the KNO8, of course a mobile missile, it can actually achieve the ability, it can give the North Koreans the ability to deliver much further into the continental United States. For the longest time, and youíll hear this now: many politicians will talk about how the North Koreans could possibly deliver a nuclear weapon to the West Coast. Well, they can deploy a ballistic missile, a road-mobile ballistic missile and deliver it much much further into the United States than the West Coast. So thatís old news. So yes. Again we have not seen them test and accomplish the re- entry vehicle, but the intelligence community has assessed openly that we do believe that should they decide to do that, they would have the capability, however unreliable it would be.

Moderator: Any follow up questions, Peter?

Peter Huessey: My follow up would beÖ we share a common interest of course with our friend Trent FranksÖ They donít have to use a re-entry vehicle if they do an EMP test. So that it doesnít re-enter the atmosphere and itís not really all that important where between Boston and Atlanta it explodes. Thatís a question and a comment.

Moderator: Thank you. Dave?

David Maxwell: Thank you, Rebeccah for your remarks. One thing that you didnít discuss about the threat is regime instability and collapse. And from an alliance perspective, this is a real challenge that we face and you know I just go on record in saying thereís noÖ there can be no end to the North Korean nuclear program or the crimes against humanity, the human rights atrocities that are being committed against the Korean people living in the North by the mafia like crime family cult we know as the Kim family regime until we achieve reunification. And from an alliance perspective, we know that President Park has addressed the initiative and really for the first time focused on unification. But from an alliance perspective, can you talk about how to discuss, and how to inform the Korean people and the US people about the threat of regime collapse, and our preparations to have to respond to that and ideally resulting ultimately in unification.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Itís not an easy answer, I would just say. But I think itís an important question. And this goes back to my original point is that we do have to do a better job, I think, of governments explaining to our people what the problems are, what the risks are, and what our national objectives are. Again, Iíve seen, not only with the South Korean people, a divide between what they wish and what their government is trying to achieve and the national objectives of the government officials. And again, that divide exists in the United States clearly. So I think just communicating the threat of regime collapse, communicating what that would mean to South Korea should that happen, I donít think this is something that the South Korean government is not aware of. I think that theyíre very well aware of that. But it should be part of the conversation. The Obama administration has done something remarkably different than the previous administration, and that is to separate the conversation between human rights violations with our own national security objectives. In the Presidentís defense, this is what he would describe as a more realist foreign policy outlook in which weíre just looking strictly at cold hard calculations of what our US interests, mainly what are our US interests. I would disagree with looking at it that way and say that the human rights piece and the treatment of their people, you better believe that thatís going to have an effect on South Korea if thereís regime collapse in North Korea. And so you canít separate the human rights problem, the problem of the government with the way it treats its people and the way the system of government with the effects of the security of South Korea and the United States. So I would reunite those two conversations. I mean I think there should be Ė that should be something that we should be doing a better job of communicating at.

Moderator: Any follow up, Dave?

David Maxwell: I guess just to follow up: Americans Ė we really donít like to get involved until something happens. So I guess to really press you a little further, you know, you talk about the threat. But unless thereís a crisis, we really donítÖ the American way of war is we respond after we take it on the chin. And when regime collapse occurs, itís going to be catastrophic. And of course the danger of regime collapse is it could lead to conflict, large scale conflict as well. So I guess Iíd press you a little more to just talk about the threat. How do we really inform the public about not only the threat, and itís hard to explain to people something that has never happened and make them aware of that, and then explain to the American people that itís in our interest and our responsibility as an ally to be able to come to the aid of our ally in South Korea, to end the unnatural division of the Korean peninsula.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Two points. I would just say General Mad Dog Mattis, James Mattis, retired Marine Corps General, I like the way he described it. He says that we need to start taking our own side. He often will say we need to start taking our own side in foreign policy which means we need to start doing things that would actually help the United States, not work against what weíre trying to do. He also makes another point about allies, which is if weíre going to be an ally, we cannot just have these formals alliances and then just expect our allies. We like toÖ Americans like to beat up on our allies, we like to say they should be paying more, they should be contributing more. And our allies should be contributing, many of them should be paying more, but again, South Korea is one of them thatís actually contributing a significant amount of their GDP to their own security. But what General Mattis likes to say is that our allies, we need to actually help our allies when they need us before we need them. Thatís part of the alliance. Itís supposed to go both ways. And I think that the United States could do a better job of seeing rather than just looking at South Korea, I donít think that it does it, but I think it can be perceived that weíre looking at it as sort of just Ė weíre trying to hold the floodgates from North Korea, but we need to actually see where South Korea could possibly United States help and assistance in other ways as well. But to your question about how do we educate, how do we communicate to the people: itís a hard Ė I mean Iím trying to do that here, which is why I spent the first part of my remarks explaining why South Korea is different than North Korea. Ask your average American, "do you know the difference?" They better. But many of them donít, Iím ashamed to say. So I think that we need to, again, work at educating. And this goes backÖ The long answer is that it starts with our civic institutions. Itís our schools. Schools have to do a better job at explaining some of this stuff. But another question, just to pile on to your question would be how do we explain why itís important for the United States to maintain the freedom of the seas. That is a really hard thing. Iíve tried Ė I keep continuing to run into that. I say "you donít want the United States to be over extended. You donít want the United Statesí Navy to be in the Pacific. Well how do you expect trade to continue? How do expect peace and prosperity in these open sea lanes, things that weíve taken for granted for several decades?" So itís Ė and again, to your point, Americans donít like, often donít like to react until thereís a problem. And I would suggest that itís a lot cheaper and itís Ė a lot fewer people get hurt and die if we can actually do the hard work upfront to maintain that peace and security. So itís a Ė I donít know how to answer your question, which is we have to do a better Ė we have to talk about it more. I was actually really Ė I was quite discouraged, just watching the debates unfold, that when Donald Trump did say "why doesnít Ė why donít we just allow South Korea to get their own nuclear weapons, and Japan, you know why not?" Well I have not heard a very strong rebuttal why not. I have not heard anybody with clarity from the national stage say "This has been a bipartisan position that the United States is trying Ė our non- proliferation regime depends on the United States providing this nuclear umbrella to prevent proliferation, so that there are fewer nuclear weapons and that theyíre in the control of the right hands. And that that is an actually much more stable environment for the Korean peninsula than for the South to get their own nuclear weapons. So again, we need to start thinking through things that we have just taken for granted, and figure out how to articulate them in a way that people can understand.

Moderator: Thank you, Dave. Joe?

Joseph Bosco: Thank you, Rebeccah. You mentioned Chinaís support or assistance with North Koreaís missile program. Unless I missed it, did you comment on Chinaís role in the nuclear program itself and can you say anything about that?

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Iíll just say Ė I wanted to clarify Iím using the State Departmentís phrase "Chinese Entities" for a reason, because Ė Iím not receiving briefings related to this. I wouldnít be talking about them if I was. But everything that has been in open reporting has said that Chinese entities have been assisting the North Korean missile program to some degree.

Joseph Bosco: I believe Secretary Panetta testified on the Hill Ė he used the term "China". China has assisted.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Yeah, but weíd have to Ė Iím not aware of that. Iíve only seen the term "Chinese Entities" in a very careful intentionality of that phrase. I am not aware that that is happening, that that is going on with the nuclear program. That would be an obvious Ė It wouldnít make sense to be, first Iíll say that. It wouldnít make sense that China is assisting. I think that ChinaÖ Chinese Entitiesí interest in helping North Koreaís missile program would be just money. They donít think that it would be too detrimental to what North Korea is already doing and so I think that thereís a financial influence there. Helping another country with their nuclear program is a completely different problem. And I donít see that it would be in the interests of China at all for North Korea to expand their nuclear program. Iím willing to be corrected, but thatís my view.

Moderator: Thank you. Larry?

Larry Niksch: Ms. Heinrichs, Iíd like you to go further into this issue that you raised about these individual intelligence officials disclosing what they believe is good information or good estimates about North Korean nuclear warhead capabilities versus the continued line from the official Pentagon and the White House that we see no evidence of these claims. We have no information to substantiate so we donít believe these things are happening. The White House has stated, and the State Department has stated, for example, that there is no nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Iran. North Korea has, at least for the last three years, been developing nuclear warheads for the No Dong Missiles. Weíve talked about this before at these sessions. The South Korean government finally acknowledged this last month. The Obama administration continues to basically say it has no evidence. So youíve had this, I donít think cover-up is really too hard a term here, for three years about the miniaturization of warheads for the No Dongs. This discrepancy between what apparently is coming out of some elements of the Intelligence community in terms of estimates versus this kind of denial pattern coming out of the official Pentagon, the White House: how do we explain this? Whatís going on here? Why is there this gap in these kinds of statements?

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Well first of all the combatant commander has beenÖ If you really want to get a good understanding of a more honest assessment, I think, of the threat, US NorthCOM Commanders have always been pretty good at this, the NorthCOM combatant commanders. Because it is there area of responsibility to protect the United Statesí homeland, so theyíre looking at these kinds of threats by carefully analyzing, and this is something that they think about a lot. And so General Jacoby, whoís just as good as Admiral Gortney, both of them talked very clearly about the North Korean threat. And so I think that we should take them at their word when they say that the United States does believe that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear weapon and has the capability, however unreliable it might be, to deliver it to the United States. Now your question about why would the Obama administration not be forthcoming or not share the assessment of many analysts, many people, the Israeli government, etc. that North Korea and Iran have cooperated on their nuclear program? The main reason, I would suggest, is the Obama administration has been single-mindedly, I donít think itís too much to say single- mindedly but Ė has been very very devoted to achieving the Iran deal. And in order to Ė they laid out certain criteria that would have to be met in order to achieve a good deal with Iran. One of them was that they had to stop their ballistic missile testing. Another one was that Iran would have to come clean on its previous, what the IAEA determined were possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, which we have now learned are not possible. There were military dimensions to its nuclear program, etc. So there are many Ė anytime anywhere inspections etc. The Obama administration laid these out. Another one I would add is that thereíd be no more cooperating with its nuclear program and missile program with foreign entities. But the administration was unable to achieve those objectives. And it went ahead to pursued the JCPOA, the Iran deal, anyway. So I think itís important for us to understand how important this deal was for the administration for achieving part of its Global Zero agenda that the President laid out in Prague in 2009. It wanted to bring Iran into the international community, which it has tried to do even though Iran has been unrepentant about its nuclear program. And regardless of Ė even if you think the Iran deal is going to work the way that it is Ė even President Obama himself has said that even if Iran cheats, so heís even saying that they might cheat, but even if they might cheat, that we have moved the nuclear program back by one year. Of course I would follow up the press court didnít. Because as we know from Ben Rhodes, thatís the echo chamber supporting the Obama administrationís Iran deal. But I would have asked is "Well Mr. President, after one year, donít we now have a militarily more powerful, economically more prosperous country with ballistic missiles able to possibly hit the United States, and now with a nuclear weapon?" So anyway, this has been something thatís been incredibly important to the administration and so I think acknowledging the very thing that youíre putting your finger on would have completely thrown a wrench in the possibility of achieving that. So it simply isnít considered. And again, the press will be surprised when we start seeing pictures of Iranian scientists again at ballistic missile sites in North Korea. None of us should be surprised. We should expect this. And we should Ė I at one point called the Iran deal a jobís program for North Korean scientists, because I think thatís probably what the effect is going to have in North Korea. So again, I think that it would have foiled some of their international relations objectives, and I think that the administration has been very willing to be dishonest with the American people about what itís trying to do.

Larry Niksch: One more question.

Moderator: Yes sure, go ahead.

Larry Niksch: Ms. Heinrichs, you didnít, I believe, mention the Musudan missile in your remarks. Now there have been two failed tests of the Musudan. What do you think the prognosis is for North Korea with this Musudan, given these two failed tests?

Rebeccah Heinrichs: I think what we should learn from that is theyíre determined to actually make it work. So Iím not one of those people where that every time I see North Korea blow up a missile on its launch pad, that I think, "Oh see look, theyíre not very good at it. We donít have anything to be worried about." What I see is a determined regime thatís starving its own people and willing to use its resources to actually get its missile program right. And I think thatís what we should take away from that. We have seen grave progress over the years. Every time we think theyíre not going to achieve something, theyíre not going to achieve that third stage with their ICBM, theyíre not going to actually get a satellite to orbit, theyíre not going to be able to do this, they do it. So with that, I would just say itís a matter of time, unless we can actually stop it.

Moderator: Peter?

Peter Huessey: I just thought Iíd add a couple things, just for the record. With respect to Mr. Panetta, back in 2012, Representative Turner from Ohio asked about the transporter launcher system that North Korea showcased during a military parade. And this is what Royter says: "Panetta declined to give additional details about any Chinese support for North Koreaís missile capabilities in a public setting due to Ďthe sensitivity of that information.í And then he continued Ďbut clearly thereís been assistance along those lines.í" And then talks about no question thereís a threat. But he uses, theyíre very careful their language. And I think Rebeccah is 100% right. This was due to "letís not upset the Chinese with respect to Iran." What I would make reference to an extraordinary book by former Secretary of the Air Force, Tom Reed, and former Deputy National Security Adviser to President Reagan, Tom Reed, who wrote a book called The Nuclear Express. And in that, there are chapters devoted solely to Chinese efforts to proliferate nuclear weapons, particularly starting with the continent work in Pakistan. And then also Libya, North Korea, and Iran. And itís an extraordinary book and there are two. Thereís The Nuclear Express and then thereís one he wrote called Armageddon, which are on both the same subject, which is the nuclear proliferation. And I urge anybody in the audience and the panel here to get the two books, because they are a detailed look at what China has done, which as we all know has been under the radar screen, and not been laid out by our administration or previous administrations. I think all along because we donít Ė thereís always a reason we donít want to upset China. And as my former boss at NDU, General Dunn, and my former boss at the Air Force Association, General Dunn, has said "well if North Korea and China donít like something, keep doing it." At least thatís his philosophy.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: Yeah I would just say, of course, itís much for complicated for our allies in South Korea. And I think that we need to be sensitive to that as we, again even though I did make the suggestion that we should stop granting credence to the argument that China continues to make that if the United States deploys THADD to South Korea, that it would somehow degrade the Chinese offensive capability etc. Again, we sort of take this for granted. Every administration comes in and then tries to convince the Chinese and the Russians that our missile defense systems for our allies are not meant to defend against them. But doesnít anybody say "why do you want the ability to target our allies or the United States?" If youíre not targeting the United States, you shouldnít care. And so I think that, again we need to be delicate about the diplomacy here and understand how difficult the diplomatic situation is for South Korea, vis a vi China. We should be sensitive to that. Iím not suggesting that we unnecessarily provoke, but I am suggesting that we start to look at the way we talk about this, and again, itís certainly not hold out THADD, for instance, as a chess piece with China. I mean this is something that our allies need. This is something that US forces Korea needs. And so I think that the United States can move forward at any time, as long as they Ė as soon as theyíre willing to do so.

Moderator: Joe, did you have a comment? David?

David Maxwell: Well Iíd just follow up on your last comment about THADD. We cannot acquiesce as to any foreign Ė to China on how to defend our soldiers and the alliance. So I strongly agree with you that if we determine that we need THADD to defend against a North Korean missile threat, then thatís the decision the alliance makes. And China does not get a vote in our defense. And we should not acquiesce to that. And again, understanding that THADD is a threat to Chinese offensive missile capabilities. Itís only a threat if China intends to fire its missiles at South Korea. If thatís Chinaís intent, then yes it is a threat. So I agree with you that THADD, the decision on THADD is an alliance decision and one thatís made in the best interest, from a military and security perspective.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: I would just too, of course, THADD is a terminal ballistic missile defense system to intercept missiles in their terminal phase of flight, a short range system. It is not there to defend South Korea against Chinese missiles. Itís not able to do that. Itís not what itís designed to do. But I guess my point is more of a Ė to say, to continue to make the argument though that it isnít going to provide protection Ė and the other thing, the Chinese are worried about, theyíre worried about, I think theyíre worried about the alliance between the United States and South Korea. But I think we should press into that. I donít think there should be any daylight between the United States and South Korea as it pertains to mutual security there. But again, I think that it does sort of say Ė if at some point the United States does need to build more sophisticated and complex missile defense systems based on the threats that we do perceive, I think that weíre now in a new missile age in which intentionally keeping the system limited so as not to upset China and Russia is just a thing of the past.

Moderator: Thank you. Now the floor is open.

Man 1: Thank you. Paul Gallagher. Before I ask my question, Iíd like to make a motion that we do away with the phrase nuclear umbrella. An umbrella is a protective defensive device, and retaliation doesnít protect anything. If the DPRK launches a first strike against Seoul, and we retaliate by destroying Pyongyang, it doesnít save any lives in Seoul. So letís not call it a nuclear umbrella. In the old days, when we were talking with the Soviet Union, it was reasonable to say that there were logical, sane people in charge, and we could deter them by threatening them. Itís not at all clear to me, and this is the first half of my question, itís not at all clear to me that weíre dealing with a sane, reasonable person at the head of DPRK. You mentioned two essential factors that go into our decision making process, intent and capability. Iím not at all clear that we understand the thought process, the personality, the temperament of Kim Jong Un. Iím not at all clear that we know his intent or can guess it, and Iím very bad at tea leaves myself. On the other hand, I think that we should stipulate that they have the capability. There have been widespread news reports that they have bombs, that they have missiles. They could launch if they wanted to, on a momentís notice, a first strike against Seoul or Tokyo or someplace nearby. Itís not enough whether they can reach the US homeland or not. I think it would be a huge failure for us if they struck either of two countries. So then the second half of the question is not about intent, but about capability. If they try to launch, does THADD work? Will that protect South Korea or Japan or wherever we install it from an incoming missile, or will it miss and fail and leave us with the only choice, which is retaliation? Thank you.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: There is a lot of questions in that question. Iíll start with the last one. THADD has been proven. It is one of our most mature ballistic missile defense systems that we have in our entire BMDS. I would put my life on the life. Iíve seen THADD actually tested out in Hawaii. Itís an amazing system. My old boss, Congressman Franks, once watched a THADD intercept in which after the THADD intercept hit the test target, like it was supposed to do, it then went out and looked and found the largest piece of debris in the atmosphere and hit it. THADD is one of our most mature ballistic missile defense systems and if US forces Korea is saying that we need this to protect our guys, they donít say that for no reason. They need it, and if itís there to protect Seoul, we can provide some of the various cities protection. I think South Korea is going to need more than THADD. Again, this is a new missile age. I think we are now into a time in international relations where ballistic missile defense is going to be one of the primary components of how we demonstrate our alliances. I know South Korea is already working on its own missile defense system. I think that thatís fine. I think itís going to take a long time and I think there are other opportunities in which the United States companies have already developed some ballistic missile defense systems which South Korea might be interested in and should pursue. I think THADD is just Ė THADD and Patriot is another one, is going to beÖ These are systems, and Aegis BMD might provide some protection. Certainly it does for Japan as well. So again, yes, I have full confidence in the THADD missile defense system. Your first point though, I wanted to disagree if I could a little bit. The point of nuclear deterrent of course is that we donít want to get to the point where weíre actually exchanging nuclear weapons. You made a very good point about the North Korean regime not at this point, not actually striking with nuclear weapons, and I would say why is that. If they do have the capability for the shorter range stuff, why havenít they done so. And I think because deterrence so far is working. Something is motivating the regime not to do that. Does the North Korean regime care about North Korean civilians there? I would suggest that they donít. I think the United States and South Korea care a lot more about North Korean civilians than the North Korean government does. And I think the North Korean government knows that full well. So targeting Ė so if the United States Ė it makes no sense for the United States to target, of course, North Korean cities. That makes no sense because it wouldnít be a credible deterrent. The North Korean regime doesnít care about North Korean cities. It does care about North Korean regime survival. And I think that the United States has to have a robust and modern nuclear deterrence in order to actually target those deeply buried and hardened targets, facilities that actually sustain the North Korean regime and the North Korean military programs. So those are the things I think the United States needs to look towards whenever weíre talking about nuclear deterrence. But again, point taken on the umbrella, of course. But the idea here is that we are providing nuclear security so that South Korea does not have to acquire their own nuclear weapons. And hopefully that the United States wonít have to deploy nuclear weapons once again to South Korea. Which of course we havenít had there for a couple of decades. Thatís a couple of them. So I hit a couple of your points, I think. I appreciate your question.

Moderator: Thank you.

Woman 1: Hi, weíve addressed the capabilities, but to get back to the intent point. So how do we go about getting after KJUís intent and will? And you addressed it just a little bit, you know, just now. But that is a very hard to get after for any adversary, so Iím just curious as to your thoughts.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: It is very difficult, which is why, again, especially as it relates to South Korea, this is why missile defense is so important. There is more uncertainty about what North Korea may or may not do, which is why we need ballistic missile defense. The missile defense agency, of course, of the United States has Ė and others within the Pentagon Ė have talked recently a lot about left of launch, which is looking at the whole kill chain. The United States canít just sit back and wait till a missile is launched at us because Ė and hereís the thing too, North Korea has a lot of missiles. Weíre not trying to catch all of them. What the United States wants to do, especially in regards to South Korea, is absorb an initial blow, so that South Korea, with the United States, has the ability to actually respond on our own terms and not just receive an onslaught of ballistic missile attacks. Itís a critical component of our overall strategic posture that weíre offering. Iím not suggesting that itís the one thing that we need to pursue. But again, we can begin to see what the regime there is about to do because we can see what sort of missiles theyíre testing. We can see that theyíve increased their nuclear program, the number of tests, etc. Theyíre supposed to allegedly test another one. And so theyíre clearly relying more on this capability. And so, as we just continue to try to figure out what itís about to do, this is why the KNO8 is so scary, because itís a road-mobile missile. We have a much shorter decision time to event respond. So again, getting at your point, how do you figure out the intent when they are seemingly being very erratic in the business that theyíre doing. And I would just suggest that this is why this is not the time for the United States to unilaterally reduce our own nuclear weapons, our own conventional options, if we do need to respond. And also this is the time to increase ballistic missile defense. The other thing I would say, this is another reason that NorthCOM and MDA have been pounding the table about increased radar and sensors so we can actually see whatís going on a lot better. Because it is much harder to assess what they may or may not do in the coming days and months. So itís a very hard thing to get at, but I think thatís why it requires really seriously thinking about deterrence and what is important to the regime. You do not deter other countries based on what you think is important. You deter other countries by what you think they think is important. You have to figure out whatís important to them. And this gets to the other piece on the nuclear umbrella. Assurance is determined by what is needed by our allies assurance. So even if the United States thinks that conventional weapons are the only thing that we need, if South Korea says, "no, I want a nuclear promise, a nuclear assurity from the United States," then thatís whatís required to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons to the South as well.

Moderator: Peter?

Peter Huessey: Iíd like to add to what Rebeccah said in that General Dunn, who I mentioned previously, was the chief military advisor to our negotiators to North Korea. And he and I collectively developed a pyramid called the North Korean 10 Step Program. And anywhere on that 10 step programs ends the most important which is reunification of the country under North Korean rule. The various steps include withdrawal of American forces from South Korea, end of exercises between the South Korean and United States military. But what I found interesting is that his point was the North Koreans at any one time are following one or more of those steps in this pyramid, this 10 step program. And itís a being repeated over and over again, particularly provoke the United States or South Korea by doing something militarily, blowing up a South Korean navy ship or shelling a village or Ė and then they blame it on us and then they say for the United States and South Korea to be forgiven, they will have to make a concession. And itís a program that is very consistent and very repeated over and over again. And to that extent, we may not call it rational, but in their mind it is very predictable. And itís something weíre seeing. The only question is whether at what point do the Chinese decide that this predictable Frankenstein that they created is getting off the reservation, and that they have to do something serious. Thereís some question whether the sanctions now in place are more serious than theyíve been before. Theyíre not as good as the ones that the Bush administration put on the banking system, and there is some question about the trade between North Korea and China being continuing and not being restricted. But my view is the irrationality of what we see in North Korea is in my view a very consistent, perhaps not well thought out, but consistent aggression against the South and the United States for the sole purpose of getting the United States military forces out of the peninsula. My view is that itís backfiring and the Chinese may have decided that "Oops, we donít want THADD and we donít want more naval presence and we certainly donít want even more missile defense." But Iím never quite sure when the Chinese figure out that any of that trumps their solidity with the North Korean regime, because I think the North regime feels their purpose is, which is they like to use it to stick pins in the United States and cause us a great deal of trouble. I just wonder at some point, it begins to backfire and increase the US presence in the Pacific that otherwise wouldnít be there. And I donít know when thatíll happen.

Moderator: Okay, Larry?

Larry Niksch: I want to echo Peter, but at least in the immediate sense disagree with him a little bit about the US reaction. What Kim Jong Un clearly is seeking to do with these provocations is right now, as Peter points out, maneuver the United States into a negotiation about US troops in South Korea. You have this proposal, for example, to suspend nuclear tests if the United States suspends our combined ROK-US military exercises in South Korea. In other words, leaving US forces kind of withering on the vine without any real big unit training and exercises in South Korea. The Chinese Foreign Minister has proposed now reopening Six Party Talks simultaneously with beginning talks over a Korean peace treaty. And now we have numerous reports in the South Korean press that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has been to South Korea, and has sounded out South Korean officials on how South Korea would react if the Obama administration begins discussions with North Korea over opening peace treaty negotiations with North Korea. Kim Jong Un is making a little bit of progress here. And Iíll just make a couple of observations about all of this. Number 1, and I have been concerned about this for a number of years now, we have three successive US administrations now who have not articulated a clear US position on the conditions under which the United States would agree to go into a peace treaty negotiation with North Korea. You have to go back to the Reagan administration before there were specific US conditions laid out. So what we have now, after all of these years, is virgin territory with regard to the peace treaty issue. Secondly, when, as Rebeccah has talked about, when we are all clear, when there is no uncertainty that North Korea does have that intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of hitting the United States, theyíre going to want to negotiate even more with us. And you know the first thing theyíre going to say to us as they look across the table. Theyíre going to say, "Are you Americans willing to jeopardize San Francisco in order to defend Seoul?" Remember the Chinese General who made the same comment in 1996 during the Taiwan tensions, related to Taipei and Los Angeles. And that is exactly what we are going to face, probably by 2018/2019. Because I think by that time the North Koreans will have convinced us that they have this capability. Itís going to be very interesting to see how Americans react, including whatever administration is in office when the North Koreans put that proposition on the table. Are you willing to jeopardize San Francisco so you can defend Seoul? Itís going to be interesting to see what the US reaction is going to be.

Moderator: Thank you. Dave?

David Maxwell: Iíd like to follow up on that. Weíve talked about exercises a couple of times. Iíd like to help Rebeccah with her mission to educate people. We need to remember why we conduct ROK-US alliance combined exercises and the timing for those exercises that always occur in February, March, April. We fail to take into account the fact that North Korea goes through its winter training cycle from November to March. And their winter training cycle culminates with their military forces at the highest state of readiness at the optimal time for attack, when the ground is hard before the rice is planted in the South. And so the purpose of team spirit in the past, now RSOI key resolve, is to bring the ROK and US military forces to the highest state of readiness to be able to deter an attack. And if North Korea attacks, of course, to successfully defend. And so the reason that we conduct our exercises is not simply to ensure the readiness of US forces and Korean forces, which is important, but to also to be prepared against the very real threat that North Koreanís conventional forces pose at that time of the year.

Rebeccah Heinrichs: If I can, just to respond to the previous comments Ė I agree with everything that you just said. But to the previous comment, I would just say Ė I really do believe that we have concluded that North Korea could launch a nuclear missile at the United States, however unreliable that it would be. I think that weíre already there. And I think that should North Korea give us that proposition, that it might launch a nuclear ballistic missile at the United States, I think that North Korean, with StratCOM, would intercept that ballistic missile with the ground-based missile defense system if they decide to do that. And that would be a wasted missile. And then if they really care about regime survival, then that would be a really poor decision on their part to launch a ballistic missile at the United States, because not only would it not hit its intended target, but then they would receive a punishing response from the United States. So I think that itís important to make that clear. But the point is well taken that the United States is certainly being tested by the regime. And then I would just point out too that the last two terms of this administration, North Korea has become more provocative. And North Korea Ė not to say that it was not. I donít mean to say that it certainly wasnít before as well. This has been ongoing for many many years. But it has perceived weaknesses in the deterrence that the United States with South Korea has put forward. So it has been able to get away with some of these things. And I would suggest that we should make clear that it shouldnít and it canít get away with even some of these lower level aggression that weíre really concerned about. Iíve heard that many analysts arenít so concerned that North Korea would launch an actual missile attack on South Korea, but it might actually conduct assassinations or sort of lower level conventional attacks, etc. like when it did when it with a torpedo attack as well. And we need to make sure that they understand that those are unacceptable and that we respond accordingly.

Moderator: Well, Rebeccah, thank you very much. Letís give her a big round of applause.



* Transcribed by David Lee, ICAS Intern

This page last updated August 24, 2016 jdb