With North Korea firing missiles over Japan, testing a hydrogen bomb and retracting threats to fire a missile at Guam, it’s apparent things are beyond tense.
After Kim Jong-un threatened to fire a missile at Guam, President Trump issued a clear order, according to Newsmax. Trump has ordered the US military to shoot down any missile launched by North Korea that is heading toward the US or its territories.
After North Korea fired its missile over Japan, President Trump was said to be considering extending the order to shoot any missile launched from North Korea, though no decision has been reported yet.
John Bolton, the former US Ambassador to the UN, says the order to shoot down all incoming missiles is a no brainer. “This is a clear exercise of self-defense, and there’s no question we should do it.”
Some have wondered why Japan didn’t issue a similar order to its military after North Korea fired a missile over Japanese territory. According to The Independent, there are actually a number of benefits, albeit risky ones, for a country to allow the missiles to be fired around them.
One potential downfall to shooting a missile out of the sky is that the defense systems might miss, according to Douglas H. Pal, former National Security Council member to President Bush and current Vice President of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.
This would, no doubt, boost North Korea’s confidence to launch additional missiles or even attack. “We’ve been working on this technology for 30 years, and it’s still not ironclad. If we shoot and miss, it would hand Kim Jong-un an incalculable propaganda victory,” Pal said.
Another benefit, Pal pointed out, is the data collected from both the launch, flight, and the wreckage of the missile. “These tests are for North Korea to experiment with their capabilities but, less obviously, they help us learn about those capabilities,” Pal said. “From telemetry data to the wreckage we can recover, there’s a huge amount of information in every launch- not least the clues to their strategy that can be discerned from their decisions.”
The final reason would be that shooting down a test missile may be perceived as an act of war by Kim Jong-un, who may use the act as a justification to actually fire his missiles with the intent of striking at his enemies.
Despite these benefits, however, President Trump’s standing order to shoot down any missile approaching the US is still a wise one. According to The Atlantic, a serious threat from test missiles is that they can fail, causing massive damage.
Michael Auslin, a Williams-Griffis Fellow in Contemporary Asia at the Hoover Institution, argues this point: “If North Korea is reckless enough to launch these over populated areas, and then the missile breaks up, what happens of course if it falls on a populated area and causes casualties? At some point, there could be an accident or a mistake, and you’re plunged into a crisis.”
This is a legitimate concern considering the number of failed missile tests by North Korea that have failed to hit their designated targets or explode too soon.
There’s also the obvious risk that the launch may not be a test. Precious time that could be used to destroy the missile might be wasted determining if the trajectory of the incoming missile is an attack, test, or miscalculation on North Korea’s part.
A missile test launch towards the US could very easily spark the powder keg of war and our military could attack North Korea preemptively. According to Bolton, North Korea’s refusal to back down to sanctions and threats is causing the US to seriously consider a preemptive strike already.
Referencing the hydrogen bomb test and Japan launch Bolton said, “We are close to the finish line. It highlights how little time we have here.”
Though shooting down an incoming test missile may be what starts a war, having a standing order to shoot down any missiles that may pose a threat avoids any accidents or miscalculations from occurring that could result in loss of life. It’s also important to remember that if a war occurs because of the US shooting down a test launch, it started because the US was acting in self-defense against a nation growing increasingly hostile and trying to provoke a response.