Missile Defense Briefing Report: No. 329

Pyongyang is once again using its missile arsenal to demonstrate its displeasure over U.S.-South Korean defense ties. A recent, routine military drill conducted by the U.S. and South Korea, the DPRK claims, was in fact a maneuver to prepare for invasion. In response, the North Korean regime has test-fired several short-range missiles.

Seoul, meanwhile, appears to be softening its stance toward a possible U.S. deployment on the Korean Peninsula. The proposal, which faces stiff resistance from Beijing and Moscow, previously received a tepid response from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense, which made clear that the ROK will not incorporate its missile defense capabilities into a U.S.-led regional anti-missile architecture. However, the door now seems to be open in Seoul for the U.S. to consider deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense battery to potentially defend troops there. A South Korean official was quoted by the Korea Times as saying that “Interoperability between the KAMD (Korea Air and Missile Defense) and the U.S. missile defense system is necessary to better deal with North Korean threats." (Seoul Korea Times, September 2, 2014; Associated Press, September 6, 2014)

Turkey’s ongoing missile defense saga continues. Construction of an air defense system is one of the country's largest defense projects, but the Turkish government has dithered over the selection of a foreign partner - much to the chagrin of U.S., Chinese and European companies. Turkey's defense undersecretariat has stated, "Various research and investigations need to take place in order to achieve our strategic plan in areas such as infrastructure to be established, common production areas, technology transfer and industrial participation." In response, the Turkish government has requested that all bidders on the project "keep their current offers valid" until the end of the year, marking the third time the tender has been delayed. (Istanbul Sabah, August 27, 2014)

Russia's aggression in the Ukraine has sparked a debate among European nations regarding the potential use and application of the Continent's missile defense capabilities. The Baltic States and Poland are now reportedly advocating that NATO's nascent anti-missile system should expand upon its intended goal of guarding against Middle Eastern missile threats to also include those emanating from Russia. However, several NATO members - chief among them Germany - have nixed the idea, in large part because Moscow has been assured since the program's conception that the Russian nuclear deterrent would not be affected as a result. (Hamburg Der Spiegel, August 25, 2014)

Russia, meanwhile, is forging ahead with its strategic modernization, using ongoing tensions with the West as impetus. Citing NATO rhetoric as justification, Russia has conducted a successful test of its "Bulava" sea-launched nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile. The "Bulava," which has a range of 5,000 miles, failed a number of previous tests. The system, however, has assumed a higher profile amid Kremlin calls for less dependence on Western military equipment amid ongoing tensions over Ukraine. (Reuters, September 10, 2014)

The international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program may still still ongoing, but Pentagon officials are now raising their concerns over a different facet of the Iranian threat: the Islamic Republic’s expanding missile capabilities. The Defense Department's annual report to Congress on Iran’s military capabilities states that "Tehran is quietly fielding increasingly lethal symmetric and asymmetric weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and anti-ship ballistic missiles." Particularly concerning, according to Pentagon analysts, is that Iran has an extremely advanced anti-ship ballistic missile, known as the Khalij Fars, which may now be operational. The missile is considered a game-chanter for the region because it "has a range of 300 km, which means it is capable of threatening maritime activity throughout the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," says U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm James Syring. (Jane's, September 8, 2014)