Days after North Korea launched its most advanced ICBM which reportedly can hit a target anywhere in the United States with its 8,000+ mile range, Pyongyang said the U.S. is "begging" for a nuclear war by planning the "largest-ever" joint aerial drill with South Korea, according to Bloomberg. “Should the Korean peninsula and the world be embroiled in the crucible of nuclear war because of the reckless nuclear war mania of the U.S., the U.S. will have to accept full responsibility for it,” North Korea’s state-run KCNA said Saturday, citing a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As we previously reported, the statement came after Yonhap News reported that six U.S. Raptor stealth fighters planes arrived in South Korea on Saturday for a joint air drill named "Vigilant Ace 18" scheduled for Dec. 4 to 8. The F-22s flew into South Korea together in a show of force. The stealth fighters, however, were just a small part of the upcoming show of force: according to local media, some 230 aircraft and up to 16,000 soldiers and airmen are taking part in the drill, which is one of the biggest ever of its kind.
Meanwhile, in addition to Lindsey Graham's warning that US civilians in South Korea should evacuate ahead of "military conflict", in response to North Korea's recently enhanced capabilities, the United States is beefing up security on the West Coast.
Last week the New York Times reported that Hawaii was bringing back its Cold War-era early missile warning system designed to warn residents of an impending nuclear attack.
The Attack Warning Tone, described as a “wailing tone,” will be heard for about 50 seconds on the first business day of every month, beginning on Dec. 1. It will sound after the regular monthly test of the sirens that warn residents of hurricanes or tsunamis, the Emergency Management Agency said.
Now, according to Congressmen Mike Rogers who sits on the House Armed Services Committee along with Democrat Adam Smith, we learn that the Pentagon is also exploring locations on the West Coast for anti-missile hardware. Rogers and Smith said the Pentagon is looking to distribute the THAAD anti-missile system made by Lockheed Martin Corp at west coast sites.
“It’s just a matter of the location, and the MDA making a recommendation as to which site meets their criteria for location, but also the environmental impact,” the Alabama Congressman and Republican told Reuters during an interview on the sidelines of the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in southern California, although the Congressmen said the number of sites that may ultimately be deployed had yet to be determined.
As Zero Hedge reported in September, the THAAD ground-based regional missile defense system has a 100% success rate in test interceptions according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency as of May 2017, hitting 13 out of 13 targets (unlike the new SM-3 Block IIA missile developed jointly by the US and Japan failed its first test in June).
THAAD is a ground-based regional missile defense system designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and takes only a matter of weeks to install. In addition to the two THAAD systems deployed in South Korea and Guam in the Pacific, the U.S. has seven other THAAD systems. While some of the existing missiles are based in Fort Bliss, Texas, the system is highly mobile and current locations are not disclosed.
A Lockheed Martin representative declined to comment on specific THAAD deployments, but added that the company “is ready to support the Missile Defense Agency and the United States government in their ballistic missile defense efforts.” He added that testing and deployment of assets is a government decision.
The United States also tested the THAAD system in July, shooting down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ICBM.
The addition to boost West Coast defense, THAAD locations will significantly beef up the existing ground-based Midcourse Defense System (GMD) located in Alaska and California, along with the ship-mounted Aegis system deplyed on U.S. Navy vessels. The THAAD system has a much higher success rate than the GMD. The Missile Defense Agency also told Congress in June that it planned to deliver 52 more THAAD interceptors to the U.S. Army between October, 2017 and September 2018, bringing total deliveries to 210 since May 2011, Reuters reports.
There is a bit of conflicting information on the plan, however, as Missile Defense Agency deputy director, Rear Admiral Jon Hill, stated "The Missile Defense Agency has received no tasking to site the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System on the West Coast," directly contradicting reps Mike Rogers and (R-AL) and Adam Smith (D-WA).
As reported in September, South Korea has already installed the THAAD system in the province of Gyeongsangbuk, which hundreds of residents took to the streets to protest in a major clash with police.
Perhaps the South Koreans (and certainly China) are not especially excited by the U.S. military buildup, but now that the neighbor to the north has the ability to sling an ICBM over 8,000 miles, they may reconsider.