Trump’s new missile defense plan could prep the US for a decapitation strike on North Korea

  • President Donald Trump rolled out his vision for the future of nuclear war fighting on Thursday with the Missile Defense Review, and the plan reads like a guide to taking down North Korean missile launches.
  • Some of the very same ideas that came up for negating a North Korean missile attack during the height of the nuclear crisis in 2017 came up in the review.
  • Trump has directed the US to research using the F-35 and possibly a laser drone to take out missile launches which only make sense over North Korea, which has relatively few nuclear missiles.
  • Even as Trump goes ahead trying to find an uneasy peace with Pyongyang, the missile defense review clearly looks to upset the deterrence relationship and balance between the two nuclear powers.

President Donald Trump rolled out his vision for the future of nuclear war fighting on Thursday with the Missile Defense Review, and the plan reads like a guide to taking down North Korean missile launches.

The review, originally slotted to come out in May 2018, may have been postponed to avoid spooking North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un met with Trump the following month, Defense News reported.

North Korea regularly reacts harshly to any US military move that could threaten it, and has frequently threatened to strike the US with nuclear weapons in the past.

Read more: Trump just reimagined how the US will fight nuclear wars – but it’s a losing battle with Russia

Throughout 2017, the US and North Korea traded nuclear threats that saw the world dragged to the brink of unimaginable bloodshed and destruction.

During that time, military planners, Congress, and the president all considered the unimaginable: Going to war with North Korea.

‘All options’ still on the table

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017.
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KCNA/via REUTERS

North Korea, a serial human rights violator and nuclear proliferator, presents itself as an easy target for US intervention even for the most dovish commander in chief, but there’s one small problem.

North Korea’s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, all of which can be affixed to ballistic missiles, pose a tremendous threat to South Korea, a staunch US ally, and increasingly, the US mainland itself.

Read more: Here’s why the US would have to be insane to attack North Korea

North Korea discussed lobbing missiles at the US military in Guam and detonating a nuclear warhead above the Pacific ocean. Former Pentagon and Obama administration officials say this easily could have led to an all-out war.

During that period, Congress discussed the F-35 stealth fighter jet as a possible ICBM killer.

“Very simple – what we’re trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Rep. Duncan Hunter said during a November 2017 meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to Inside Defense.

Read more: The Missile Defense Agency wants a laser-equipped drone that would be a silver bullet for stopping North Korea

Additionally, the US Missile Defense Agency in June 2017 put out a request for proposals to build a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.

Both of these systems, a laser drone and an F-35 ICBM killer came up in Trump’s new missile defense review. North Korea was mentioned 79 times in the review, the same number of times as Russia, though Moscow likely has 100 times as many nuclear warheads as Pyongyang.

But Russia, the world’s largest country by far, has a vast airspace no drone or F-35 could patrol. Only North Korea, a small country, makes any sense for these systems.

Even defense is offensive

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

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A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.
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U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf

While the Missile Defense Review in theory discusses only defensive measures against missile attacks, the military does not only defend, it also goes on offense.

Trump has directed the US to research using the F-35 and possibly a laser drone to take out missile launches which only make sense over North Korea.

If the US could significantly limit missile retaliation from North Korea it would mitigate the downside of taking out Kim, one of the top threats to US national security.

On Friday, a North Korean nuclear negotiator will head to Washington to talk denuclearization with the White House.

But even as Trump goes ahead trying to find an uneasy peace with Pyongyang, the missile defense review clearly looks to give the US capabilites certain to upset the deterrence relationship and balance between the two nuclear powers.