Should the U.S. shoot down North Korea’s next missile?

Should the U.S. shoot down North Korea’s next missile?

President Obama and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts say they’re tired of playing the same old game with North Korea — bribing it with food aid or other assistance to curtail its petulance.

Yet Pyongyang is in the midst of another one of its predictable cycles of saber-rattling. Having reneged on its latest promises, it’s threatening to launch a missile sometime this month that will put much of Asia on the edge of its seat. The U.S. and the world have already done so much to isolate and pressure the hermit kingdom. Can anything else work?

Yes, argues Michael Auslin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute — if the North goes ahead with its missile test, the U.S. should shoot it down. Direct action is the best way to stop the bluster and reconciliation merry-go-round, he says, because Washington has already tried to be nice and that didn’t work.

Wrote Auslin:

Diplomatists will be horrified at this [shoot-down] suggestion, but there are sound reasons for taking a stand now, starting with the geopolitics. The White House convinced itself that there was a chance for a new start with Kim Jong Un, even if no one changed at the top of the North Korean regime except its public face. When Washington tried the carrot, it was rewarded with one of the more subtle North Korean bait-and-switches in recent memory.

There is little prospect for any future negotiations under the current administration, but high likelihood for more destabilizing action by the North. Taking military action against an illegal missile test would show Kim and his military leaders that there also is a stick that the West can wield. That alone might cause better behavior. Pyongyang’s overriding concern is survival and the West’s use of military force to defend interests and uphold international norms of behavior—instead of just talking about all this—may make the regime think hard about its long-term interests.

What’s more, shooting down the missile is a proportionate, limited and clearly defensible action. It is neither aggressive nor provocative. It can be justified with reference to U.N. resolutions and long-standing self-defense pacts with Asian allies.

This is not like previous missile tests, where Washington and its allies did nothing. With the missile traversing Japanese islands and American bases and aiming for the waters of Southeast Asia, there is a much higher chance of something going wrong and the missile falling on the territory of other nations.

Shooting it down then also prevents further possible escalation, especially considering the dramatically heightened concern of both South Korea and Japan. For its part, the South remains prepared to respond with overwhelming military force to any North Korean provocation, a legacy of Pyongyang’s sinking of a South Korean naval ship and the shelling of an island in 2010. If the missile aborts over South Korean territory, a war could break out. Seoul has indicated it may shoot down the missile, as has Tokyo—the missile passes over Okinawa and other Japanese territory.

He continues:

Alternately, if Washington and Seoul do nothing right now, the North might be emboldened to further acts in coming days that would unleash a bigger military response by Seoul. In fact, failing to respond in any significant way means the North will become accustomed to launching missiles with unknown payloads over foreign countries, with more chances of accidents occurring. Eventually, there will be a larger public demand, in Asia and the U.S., to eliminate this threat. Asian democracies will be disappointed with Washington’s unwillingness to take their fears seriously.

Auslin concedes that the Obama administration does not appear to be seriously considering downing the North’s missile, despite its promise to deploy Aegis warships and other American assets into the region. He concludes: “But, to break the logjam with North Korea, convince America’s friends of its steadfastness and make clear Washington’s repeated assertions that it acts to uphold international public order, President Obama should avoid the false choice between doing nothing and risking war.”

All of this assumes the North wouldn’t interpret a shoot-down as an aggressive act all on its own, and go into one of its violent frenzies against the South. That could draw a response from the South, which could trigger a larger counter-response from the North, and then you’re off to the races. Even if Kim and his generals kept their cool, China might not be pleased.

Still, Auslin’s points about Japan and South Korea make the situation murkier. Is it a better or worse situation if Tokyo or Seoul shot down the missile on their own? With American warships nearby, the U.S. could show it was backing up its allies without itself being involved. But if the North gets angry about the loss of its missile no matter who blew it up, it might not matter whose flag was on the interceptor.

There’s another possibility here that Auslin apparently did not contemplate: The U.S., South Korea or Japan could swing and miss. Ballistic missile defense has a relatively good record in tests, but it isn’t perfect. If the Navy or its allies fired on the North’s rocket and missed it, that might make the situation even worse — it could embolden Pyongyang to launch again by demonstrating that its nemeses’ countermeasures didn’t work in the real world. It’d also be a big embarrassment for the nation that didn’t score the hit.

Is all of it worth the risk, or could the U.S. and its allies be playing with fire? What do you think?

Join the Conversation

Ah yes the nutters at the American Enterprise Institute — the fruitcakes that brought you the Afghan Switzerland plan and the Iraq war that would pay for itself. They specialize on being on the wrong side of everything from global warming to American security. If you crammed a room full of dumb-as s losers you still have more smarts then the entire AEI put together.

Now they want to escalate tensions with the North Koreans — what could possibly go wrong there LOL.

I don’t think a shoot down would be such a swell idea but l also don’t think this constant fantasy of being able to negotiate with the Norks should be entertained either. We should tighten the same screws we have with Iran. Sever the flow of capital into NK. We should be taking steps to collapse the regime short of open conflict and stop pretending there is any piece of paper that would be worth anything they sign. I fail to understand why we should be entertaining sending them any aid of any kind at all. Dump that whole mess squarely on China.

There’s absolutely no point.

We’ve tried the sanctions route, but they still have an open border with China. With the sanctions already on paper, the regime leadership should be starving alongside its people, but they truck and rail in whatever they want for themselves and black market out whatever they’ve got to make money.

Would it be ok for another country to shoot down a nasa satellite launch . ? —- NO.

Neo-cons are the fifth column, aim to destroy US from within. It’s a clever plan since few people can sense their true agenda: weakening America by never ending foreign interventions that drains this nation’s wealth , bleeds it to a slowly but inevitable decline.

China* (stupid typos)

Typical stale Cold War Hawk rhetoric. The author’s position depands on no reaction on the part of North Korea if the U.S. shoots down its missile, when the exact opposite would likely occur. With the U.S. forces current state of attrition due to Iraq and Afghanistan, we are in NO position for another conflict, despite the forces in theater in South Korea.
Mr. Ewing, are you ready to suit up and go to the DMZ when the ballon goes up? If not, I suggest you and your war-mongering ilk shut up.

How about you shut up if you’re unable to understand that Mr. Ewing is only is reporting on a story, not behind it.

They’re right about one thing. We shouldn’t keep trying to bribe North Koreans with food and other aid. It doesn’t work, it only helps to enable behavior like this in the long run.

Regarding shooting down the next missile launch, no sane country in North Korea’s positions would go on the offensive over such an incident. The problem is the North Koreans don’t behave all that sanely at times. A war starting over this may be very unlikely, but I doubt we’re going to take that risk.

The North Koreans don’t have nearly the edge over the South they used to, but I doubt those in Pyongyang have such a realistic view of their odds. Any Second Korean War is going to be very bloody despite our technological advantages.

If the South Korean or Japanese governments want to intercept this missile themselves, we shouldn’t try to stop them. They have the right to do so.

“Wrong side of global warming”? Oh do enlighten us.

The idea that the Iraq War would pay for itself was brought to us by virtually everyone of our “brilliant” politicians in Washington DC. Until campaigning season began and then everybody was for the war before they were against it.

The article says “illegal launch.” Is there a treaty or sanctions in place restricting the North Koreans from having this missile? If so, it’s fair game.

Completely absurd. I mean, what threat do the North Koreans realistically pose, given that both Japan and South Korea both fall under the US nuclear/BMD shield? Any real launch by the DPRK would be shot down, and then North Korea would be staring down the barrel of several thousand nuclear warheads. The current cycle keeps them contained to their little chunk of the planet. Containment has been proven by the history of the Cold War to work and I don’t see why that should change.

I wouldn’t since the NKs would then sink another SK ship or attack a island or snipe a US solder at the DMZ we cant have another war to fight right now impose more sanctions and starve them for it instead.

I’m normally against actions like this, but I think it might be a good idea in this case to shoot the missle down. This North Korea issue is all just a big p**sing contest, made worse by their false beliefs that they are the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth, and that no one could stop them. There is a good chance that stopping this mass hysteria in its tracks by blowing up their symbol of their advancement might bring them back down to earth a little and possibly bring them back to the negotiating table.

That is trying to solve international politics with psychology, I know, but it could be the kick in the pants they need…If North Korea goes on thinking they have the most powerful military in the world, nuclear warheads, and now ballistic missiles, they will believe nothing can stop them, so why negotiate.

YES, we should and we should use our most out of date system to do it. Give them the idea that if we can shoot it down with this old system, no telling what we have that they don’t know about. YES, shoot that thing down!

There is risk associated with rogue states such as NK developing a capability of placing objects in low earth orbit.

For example, they could send hard and heavy debris objects (e.g. tungsten carbide spheres) into low earth orbit to generate a cascading set of collision events of debris, as described by NASA’s Donald J. Kessler in 1978.

That debris would collide with and ablate satellites and exisisting debris, breaking off pieces, creating more pieces of debris, which then generate more collisions at an increasing rate until everything there becomes many small pieces of debris. That would destroy satellites in low earth orbit and would likewise ablate and erode any near term replacements.

Ignore them! We then should let them feed their selves, and forget about bribing them to be good boys!

This. NK is a world class attention whore/troll. Best thing to do is ignore them and let ‘em starve. If it devolves into civil war let ‘em kill each other. The only reason I can see for taking a shot at their missile is if it or parts of it are going to land on US soil. Other than that just watch it. Why? If we take an unnecessary shot and miss it gives more fuel to the anti missile defense nut jobs. If we hit it we look like bullies. There’s nothing to be gained by taking a shot we don’t have to.

“I’ll gladly pay you next Tuesday for a hamburger today” , J. Wellington Wimpy said to Popeye in 1932. And Popeye has yet to see any repayment.

Likewise, don’t expect NK to honor agreements about future performance if they have already eaten their free hamburgers.

That doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate a worthwhile deal, cash and carry, no credit, no promises, no feigned trust.

Yes, they are on international sanctions and barred from using ballistic missile technology. So it is illegal and that is why Japan, SK, and the US are deploying SM-2’s and all sorts of other goodies.

Thanks for the clarification.

We are not yet out of Afghanistan, and yet the war nuts want to start something new.

It violates UN protocol on North Korea Ballistic Missiles launch. I would say Yes it should be shoot down by all countries who justify it as illegal launch of NK BM.

I expect we have the tech to shoot it down a couple of metres over the international line, at that instant it becomes an international threat, and everyone in the area can say “we shot it down” Monty Python Style…
Everyone could take the blame, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Vietnam even Fiji could own up…


It should be decided by UN. We should not be alone on this.

People don’t like your response because they love the military industrial complex. They really could care less what is actually happening to the U.S. as long as it doesn’t directly affect them. I gave you thumbs up.

I have a feeling they (North Korea) are suicidal.

Stop allowing them to bribe us period ! Not any thing to help sustain them in any way ! Make it absolutely clear they will be held responceable for their actions with out any warning what so ever ! Regardless of their fantasies of military capabilities they know the overwhelming devastation that will be brought apon them if they cross the line in the sand ! By ignoring their rants it forces China to either support them or guard their own boarders allow NK to disintegrate from within Our constant facilitating of them over the years has only emboldend them and make the situation progressively worse ! if their missiles cause dammage and death to other nations that will the moment to strike swiftly and with out warning !

Sounds a little anti-Semitic with the typical codeword.

Maybe we could try out our airborne laser before it gets mothballed.

Sure why not. We need to get into a war that we are not going to win.. Do this and rest assured there will destruction most have never seen. Why must America get involved in matters that don’t concern us. its time for the countries we have been helping to get off their asses and help themselves.

Just use the laser, radio satellite disk or the microwave. They will not know what hits their (NK) satellite.They may say hmm back to the drawing board.

realy north and south Korea are steal at war there was no peace treaty signed only a siece fire signed in 1953
that why south Korea is still so jumpy about the north testing nukes because the war could start back up at any time.

I totally agree; they will find what they need to survive but let China carry all of that burden. But also, let’s really hurt them by putting the $100 bill, which they counterfeit so well and so extensively, out of existence. We don’t need it any more than we need the $1,000 bill.

The US should defer to the Japanese, they, could theoretically be threatened by the North Koreans. Any threat to the US is either imaginary or delusional. The Japanese have the technology to do the job as well as the USN. (they would be using the same gear) The US AF will be providing the supplemental radar observation which could pass off the early warning to the JMSDF in milliseconds. That should be fast enough. The N Koreans have already demonstrated that they can get two of the three stages to work. An quite shootdown would definitely leave them wondering and the rest of the world unimpressed, again. A fun joke could be had by all.

Who would notice a funny looking 747 hanging out in the hood?

The South Koreans are the only country that the NK can threaten, and then only by artillery. Perhaps the US Army and the South Koreans have figured that out and may even have a soultion. The North Korean Army is out of almost everything, including food. It is a long and hard walk to South Korea.

The NK have a few missiles and no serious warhead. Their nuke is still a work in process, maybe not in progress. (every time they try, they have just ruined fissile material and created a contaminated hole in the ground)

Taiwan actually could, using their secret USN technology.

Isn’t the US already in charge of the world. They practice their job so competently and so successfully that every one is impressed, even enough to suggest that they should run the US on the side. They seem to be doing a bang up job in Syria?

The only folks to actually do it is the USN and they would get into trouble unless the NASA asked them to.

Oops! The first US is an obvious typo, even though correct (accidentally) but I actually meant to type UN.

Lets send them Planned Parenthood and have them systematically kill their unborn children in the name of “rights” and “healthcare”. The old folks die and there will be very very few to take over and/or fight. I mean that’s what we are doing here, why not there too!?

China did it first to one of their own. Followed quickly by the US.

Hey, it did pay for itself, just not for the American tax payer, the oil+defense companies got what they wanted.

Risk war?? We ARE at war with North Korea, been at war since 1950. We only signed a cease fire, not a peace treaty.

Shooting down the missile does not sound like a good idea at all. The missile intercept tests we’ve already done probably already prove the credibility of our missile defense system more than shooting down some North Korean rustbucket of a rocket. And you can bet the North WILL throw a tantrum if that happens.

China shot down a satellite already in space. I believe a different bear all together. For one it is higher and faster.…For two they had more time to prepare to shoot it down. Different situation. We followed by shooting down brand new defunct secret satellite. Or that is how the story goes.

Could it be time for a different approach. Perhaps there is to much thinking outside the box. If the box is for thinking let’s get back in it. As long as there are countries that want free, fair, and peaceful trade there are going to be those countries that want to rule or have everything. If not a country then some nutty religion that thinks it should dominate the world by fear and force. There will never be a complete stablization. For the ones who have expertist take the course of action that will produce the best results for the concerned parties. Personally, I’d shoot it down and drop a bomb on where it was fired from. Then drop a bomb on the spot where the protest come from. Thats emotion talking not wisdom.

I think it is fair to say that it is time for a change. We need to end the practice of rewarding North Korean bad behavior. http://​www​.andmagazine​.com/​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​p​h​o​e​n​i​x​/​1​2​133.…

As a 14E, all’s I have to say is “FIRST TO FIRE!”

My Chinese professor once told me, “If you want a long career in the Foreign Service, go to South Korea. Because that little stalemate will never end.” Let’s face it. There is very little the United States can do when it comes to wielding any sort of pressure of the North. I speak not of nuclear weapons…the North deploys tens of thousands of artillery pieces in the mountains across the border from Seoul. They may not have escalation dominance in the long term, but they do in the short term, and that would greatly temper our response to a relatively (operate phrase) minor attack. So shooting down their missile would almost certainly be more costly for South Korea than for the North.

IF debris happens to fall into Japan’s territory, then JMSDF or JASDF will shoot down so as not to harm people. But it seems no one want to shoot down the rocket itself. And it is said shooting down way-off rocket stages is very difficult, perhaps much more difficult than shooting down rocket itself. But as rocket stage is several dozen of weight tons or more, if it happens to fall onto territory, it could cause major disaster. Anyway, nobody can predict what North Korea will do, so JSDF are deploying anti-ballistic-missile shield around Tokyo, I have heard.

As for North Korea’s bellicose, they are quite smart and full of sanity to watch the world and manage to survive. I don’t know when North Korea will collapse or not, but the first one to tell is not Japan or China, but perhaps South Korea. Last year, when the Arab’s Spring is full swing in the Middle East, there were some expectation that North Korea might heading the same fate, and no one know for sure. The first one to rule out that rumor or expectation is South Korea.

I suppose letting them develop ICBM technology is OK with you then? Seeing as you have no adequate suggestion to stopping them. Easy to pratter, not so easy to provide an answer.

What’s your solution! You complain about rhetoric but you present no solution. Weak and febble minds sit around and complain, but never provide solutions.

Lets all be peace loving hippies smoke another joint and pretend life is great for the citizens of North Korea. The west needs to stand up to the murdering oppressive bullies of the world not play their games, by their rules over and over again.
Ask any South Korean if the war was worth it for what they have day.

If it goes into your territory shoot the thing down!

Can we snatch it? We don’t have a shuttle anymore, so thats out. If it is shot down, prepare for the blowback. The Norks can’t sustain any kind of attack, so it will be a tit for tat kinda thing. This think tank has been wrong before. Let them launch it, wats the harm?


I don’t think there is harm in shooting it down with laser or high powered radio satellite. They will not know what hit it. They could just probably say. Hmm another failed BM launch test.

I think a change in policy towards NK is necessary but I don’t think shooting the missile down is the best idea. I would be for flying a squadron of F-22’s over the NK capital at low level in a show of force.

Ignore them or do as Josh suggests. There is a way to solve the problem in days but it will have to wait… oh that is what is being over and over and over and .…..

It is strange that in exchange for stopping tests we promise more aid instead of severing aid when they actually conduct tests. We were set to deliver 240,000 pounds of foodstuffs to them. Unless China does the impossible and steps up, they will go the way of Ancient Mexico. Starved, diseased, and potentially bombarded out of their insolation. sferrin’s right. The greatest wound to inflict upon an enemy is to be ignored.

You’re right. They don’t have an edge, but they won’t play fair. They’ll use gas against civilians if it takes their fancy. Against a K1/M1 blitzkrieg though? They don’t stand a chance in hell. Unless they decide to use those nukes against the tanks instead of cities. ‘course then we’d probably grease’em wit SLBM or two. The smallest and weakest in nature fake strength with loud nose and appearing bigger.

This is a good time to test our land or space base laser systems on target practice.

Why limit the game to the US? Any country that has the capability to take a shot at it ought to do just that as long as the missile is over deep water and people won’t be hurt. Australia certainly is well armed but there are others and that way no one nation would have to take the blame that always seems to fall in the path of the US.

To make them look foolish ought to be a goal. And then everyone ought to keep it up. And North Korea should be warned that any toxic missile will be answered with one right over North Korea. These folks are out of control and sending them food packages hasn’t proved to move them half an inch.

didnt we see this with Hitler is there any difference.…..

Koreans are Arrogant, Rude,Plastic , fake , predudice nation Race of People go to korea and see for yourself let them wipe themselves out ..GO USA JAPAN clear the block for new tenants

Stop expecting rational behavior from irrational people.

I think we should let them launch it and record the disintigration and then replay it over and over again. That way the whole world can witness what dorks they are.….….….…..oh wait that is what we did.

Pres Clinton could have handled this when it started heating up in the 90s before NK had the bomb (or something resembling the bomb anyway). He could have handled Bin Laden after the embassy bombings in Africa in the 90s also. Before UBL had much support. Why are we now rushing to deal with so many problems so frequently? Because so many opportunities to resolve them while they were manageable were squandered. Years of neglect have a way of showing themselves all at once if you allow it.

I hope the NK failure WAS a shootdown, and i personally suspect it was. It looks as though we won’t admit that, which is a shame. I think we should take credit even if we didn’t, but especially if we did. Force Kim to PROVE we didn’t. He loses face either way. A missile program is a huge investment for any nation, and to have it guaranteed to fail every time makes that investment pointless. Knock it down in the boost phase, then the next one on orbit, then capture the next one with X35 and FedEx it back to them COD with a big shiny bow.

oops, i meant X37. google that cool machine.

How do we know or not that it is the real deal or a dud. Sorry, I really don’t know, but with all the threats he’s been making, don’t you think we should shoot it down anyways. Are we really afraid. I agree, no more aid, I think we should take out their fleet of bombs if they send anything off after all the threats.


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