If North Korea attacked Guam, Donald Trump would have to make a quick choice
Wednesday - 16/08/2017 05:21
NORTH Korea might be holding off its plan to target Guam in a missile attack. But here’s what would happen if it did follow through.
NORTH Korea might be holding off on its plan to target Guam in a missile attack.
But if Kim Jong-un did decide to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the US territory, the Trump administration would have to decide pretty fast what action to take.
At the top of his choices would be whether to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD).
The system is designed to intercept a missile in its “terminal” phase, or the final stage, as it is coming down to hit its target and has been described as like a “bullet hitting a bullet”.
ow Trump can start a nuclear war
North Korean media today claimed its leader had been briefed by his Missile Command on completed plans to test launch missiles and “bracket” the US Pacific territory of Guam.
But Kim stated he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” a little more before deciding whether to give an order for the missile test.
However, experts stress while North Korea does possess intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and could use them, targeting any US territory or interests is a red line.
Brendan Thomas-Noone, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said it was highly unlikely the North Koreans would fire a missile towards Guam with a nuclear warhead.
“If they were going to fire a missile towards Guam it would be a test or dummy warhead first rather than being armed,” he said.
“It’s also likely that the North Koreans would have the missile strike the waters near Guam than land on the island itself.”
He said even a test would cause concern and the US would see that as a step over the line in terms of a provocation.
“Across the Trump Administration the signal has been that this would be a red line for them,” he said.
“The Trump Administration would have to make the call in the moment whether to deploy THAAD and attempt to shoot it down.
“A lot of factors would go into this, regarding whether they thought it was a true threat or not and what type of response they wished to deploy.”
The full THAAD includes three to six truck-mounted launchers which can carry about 50 interceptor missiles. This is backed up by a long-range radar, hailed as the world’s most advanced mobile radar.
THAAD is also very powerful and has the range to be able to see deep into Chinese territory.
But Mr Thomas-Noone said this system was not without its risks.
“Ballistic missile defence is a game of probability and is never 100 per cent,” he said.
“The more layers and systems you add, the higher chance that missiles won’t make it to their target. THAAD has a decent track record in terms of testing, but it’s likely the US will be deploying other capabilities like AEGIS-equipped destroyers to ensure they have multiple options.”
He said there was also the risk THAAD would fail to destroy the missile, which would call into question the reliability of missile defence during a conflict situation.
Officials have told US media that satellites have observed DPRK mobile missile launcher movement, indicating an intermediate-ballistic missile may be being prepared as part of North Korea’s holiday celebrations.
But Dr Euan Graham, International Security Program director at the Lowy Institute, said this didn’t mean Guam was in the firing line.
Dr Graham said while the DPRK may have threatened to attack Guam it was important to read between the lines when it came to its bellicose statements.
He said the DPRK was not saying anything new and its rhetoric was always guaranteed to grab some attention.
“North Korea is looking carefully at what the US is doing,” he said.
Dr Graham also pointed out Kim said he will respond only if the US does not de-escalate the situation.
Dr Graham said the rhetoric was North Korea’s way of trying to have a conversation because it knew no other way to communicate.
He also pointed out the rhetoric only stepped up after Mr Trump’s fire and fury comment, which resulted in North Korea threatening Guam in the first place.