A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a battery located on Wake Island during a Nov. 1, 2015 flight test..

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a battery located on Wake Island during a Nov. 1, 2015 flight test.. U.S. Missile Defense Agency

Here’s What the U.S. Could Sell South Korea and Japan to Counter North Korea

Trump doubles the allowable size of Seoul’s warheads and promises to transfer more sophisticated weapons to Asian allies.

Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that he would allow South Korea and Japan to buy a “substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment.” Though the White House has not explained why, presumably the president hopes such transfers will help deter North Korea, which set off its sixth nuclear bomb over the weekend.

But ships and aircraft take years to build, and even less-complicated weapons may require months to boost production, so the U.S. would likely need to raid its own stockpiles to have an immediate impact. Here’s what South Korea and Japan already have in their arsenals, and what might be on their shopping list:

Missile Defense

Tokyo is planning a major missile-defense upgrade: its 2018 budget proposal requests funds for Standard Missile-3 Block 2A interceptors, PAC-3 MSE interceptors, upgrades to air and missile defense radar — and most significantly, Aegis Ashore, the land-based version of the the air-defense combat system used on many American, Japanese and South Korean warships. (It would be just the second deployment of Aegis Ashore, after one in Romania.) Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, adds that Tokyo is also considering buying THAAD interceptors. Both Japan and South Korea already have Patriot air-defense missiles.

Missiles

On Monday, Trump also “gave his in-principle approval to South Korea’s initiative to lift restrictions on their missile payload capabilities.” A 2012 deal between the U.S. and South Korea had limited the latter’s missiles to 800 kilometers and warheads of 500 kilograms.

Seoul will now be able to launch warheads of 1,000 kilograms, improving its ability to destroy hardened targets, said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea who is now a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation.

“It is a proper response to the request of an ally facing a dire security threat,” Klingner said. “Doing so augments allied deterrence and defense capabilities, furthers the trend of South Korea assuming a larger responsibility for its defense, and another means of reassuring the South Korean government and public that the United States understands its ally’s defense requirements.”

The U.S. could likely transfer more powerful bombs and missiles to South Korea from its own stockpiles rather quickly. But remember: the U.S. military had already been raiding its global missile stockpiles for the three-year-old airstrike campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It’s been working to replenish its inventory.

Aircraft

Both South Korea and Japan are already buying the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. South Korea plans to buy 40 F-35s, with the first arriving next year. Japan is already starting to build its own 42 planned F-35s. The two nations are also buying the Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drone. Another possible option could be the General Atomics Avenger drone, which can fly higher and faster than propeller-powered drones and can carry 3,000 pounds of sensors or bombs. Last month David Alexander, who leads General Atomics’ Aircraft Systems division, touted the plane’s “long endurance and persistent time on station to stare on something,” as particularly useful over North Korea.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

The most drastic possible solution for up-arming South Korea would be the deployment of new tactical nuclear weapons. These are lower-yield nukes that could be launched via rocket systems like the MGR-3 Little John artillery system. The U.S. removed all of its nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula in the 1990s.

Over the weekend, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo told a parliamentary hearing that he had a discussion with United States Defense Secretary James Mattis on the subject.

“I told him that it would be good for strategic assets to be sent regularly to the Korean Peninsula and that some South Korean lawmakers and media are strongly pushing for tactical nuclear weapons [to be redeployed],” he said according to the Washington Post.  The move would be a provocative one, likely inflaming tensions with China and Russia in addition to antagonizing North Korea.

The Defense Department had not commented on Mattis’s response when reporters caught up with the secretary outside the White House on Saturday after the North Korean nuclear test. Mattis emphasized that the members of the United Nations Security Council “unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and they remain unanimous on their commitment to the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. As I said, we have many options to do so.”

Candidate Trump was open to the idea of allowing South Korea (and Japan) to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. And while President Trump is fond of reminding people that “all options are on the table” his view of tactical nuclear weapons as an item on the table are less well known.

On Sunday, Trump spoke with President Moon Jae-In over the phone to discuss “strengthening joint military capabilities,” according to an official readout. The capabilities the two leaders discussed include South Korean conventional missiles but not tactical nuclear weapons, a Trump Administration official said.

Some South Korean politicians from the conservative Saenuri Party have called for the country to begin its own nuclear weapons program, a move that would go against the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. In February 2016, Rep. Won Yoo-chul, leader of the Saenuri argued in a floor speech, “We cannot borrow an umbrella from a neighbor whenever it rains.” On Monday, he amplified the theme in an address at the National Assembly. “We must be prepared and wear our own raincoat.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.