Administration Responds to North Korea Missile Stunt With Missile Defense Stunt

The Bush administration has responded to a North Korean missile that doesn’t work by activating an anti-missile system that doesn’t work. From Reuters:

The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday. …

“It’s good to be ready,” the official said.

But we’re not “ready.” The interceptors the administration has placed in silos in Alaska have never been realistically tested and are known to have serious operational problems. They have as much chance of hitting an incoming missile as a kid with a slingshot.

Fortunately, the missile the North Koreans may test does not work either. The last time they fired a long-range missile was in 1998, it went about 1300 killometers and failed to put its tiny payload into orbit.

The North Korean test is a political stunt designed to grab some attention. The same can be said of the decision to activate the Alaska site. The North Koreans want to increase their negotiation leverage; the U.S. Missile Defense Agency wants to protect its massive $10 billion annual budget — “more than the entire U.S. Army is spending on research and development” — for a product that doesn’t work.

We have to hope that neither stunt succeeds.

Joe Cirincione