A regularly scheduled ICBM test at Vandenberg AFB that had been planned for this week has been delayed by DoD, ostensibly in an effort to lower the tension on the Korean peninsula. This delay comes as northern Korea has moved ballistic missiles to its east coast. At least one of those missiles has the range (if not known to have the accuracy) to hit sites in Guam, Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii. It’s also important to note that the move is more an effort to conceal the missiles’ locations than an effort to get closer to any targets—the distance gained is trivial compared to the distances to be covered.
If this is the reason—tension management—it’s hard to see how it works. Coming on the heels of last week’s decision by the Obama administration to reduce overflights of the Republic of Korea with nuclear-capable aircraft and to stop moving combat ships into nearby waters, also supposedly to lower tensions, this seems more likely to encourage Kim the Youngest by seeming to display timidity and weakness on our part.
Is the delay in order to arm and retarget what was a test article at Vandenberg? This seems unlikely (and it would suggest ugly things about the flexibility of our missile force), as northern Korea wouldn’t seem worth the trouble or expense of using an increasingly scarce warhead, when that part of the peninsula has so little of targeting value beyond its army and missile launchers—and these are more promptly, efficiently, and cheaply destroyed with more conventional systems already in place or nearby.
Or is President Barack Obama setting us up for making another round of concessions, of paying another installment of tribute, to another generation of Mad Kims, as past administrations have done in response to other outbursts of verbose threats?
The dog is barking. There’s no need to take it seriously.