(National Sentinel) Korea: The Pentagon has ordered the U.S. Army to test its THAAD missile defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile in the coming days, as U.S. bombers conducted a mission near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to test “attack capabilities.”
Per Reuters, which reported the THAAD testing exclusively:
Despite being planned months ago, the U.S. missile defense test will gain significance in the wake of North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4 that has heightened concerns about the threat from Pyongyang.
The test will be the first of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to defend against a simulated attack by an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), one of the officials said. The THAAD interceptors will be fired from Alaska.
The U.S. also has THAAD intercepters in Guam. The missile defense system has had a 100 percent success rate since 2006, the Missile Defense Agency noted.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that a pair of B-1B bombers dropped inert munitions on a training range in South Korea, to practice “attack capabilities.” The WSJ:
The joint exercise, which included U.S. F-16 fighters jets as well as fighter planes from the South Korean and Japanese air forces, came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said in Warsaw on Thursday that he was considering “some pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s latest actions.
Friday’s flyover also followed a joint missile-defense drill by the U.S. and South Korean armies on Korea’s east coast Wednesday.
The 10-hour flight drill on Friday was conducted “in response to a series of increasingly escalatory actions by North Korea,” the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement late Friday.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” Gen. Terrence O’ Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in a statement. “Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”
The B-1B’s took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Clearly, the Trump administration is ramping up pressure on North Korea, but equally clear is the message he is sending to China and Russia, both of which issued a joint statement earlier this week calling on restraint and diplomacy to solve the North Korea issue.
That message: The president has the will to “solve” the North Korean nuclear/ICBM problem, and he also has the military capability to do so.
Beijing, which has thus far hesitated to apply the full amount of pressure only it can on Pyongyang — in order to bring the Kim Jong-Un regime to heel — may now find itself with little choice. President Donald J. Trump’s challenge will be to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. has no further designs on the peninsula other than taking out North Korea’s nuclear threat, and that it’s in his interests, as well, not to have an unpredictable leader with nukes on his border; Xi’s challenge will be whether or not to believe Trump.
One other hitch: China and North Korea long ago signed what can be called a mutual defense pact, but China may not feel bound to abide by it given the North’s increasing aggressive nuclear development and ICBM tests.