January 15, 2017

Missile Threat to Japan Perilous - Talks

Japan's three tiered anti-missile defense program. The main threat is nuclear tipped ballistic missiles from North Korea and to a lesser extent China. Japan hasn't decided whether it will, or can, deploy the third tier (known as THAAD). (Diagram courtesy Asahi Shimbun)


We in Australia have no idea how serious the conventional and especially nuclear threats are to Japan. Threats to Japan are a major reason why yesterday's Japan-Australia talks featured regional security so highly.

The nuclear missiles (without their warheads) that North Korea has tested for years near Japan are causing greater Japanese anxiety. 

-  one reason is that North Korea has been steadily shrinking formerly too large nuclear warheads to a
   small enough size to fit on missiles. 

-  another reason is North Korea is developing submarines that could fire nuclear missiles. 

China has a much more mature and powerful nuclear arsenal than North Korea. China has had missile warhead sized nuclear weapons since the 1960s and submarine fired nuclear missiles since the 1980s. 

A North Korean or Chinese nuclear missile could reach Japan in under 5 minutes - hence Japan is worried.

To meet these threats Japan is developing increasingly comprehensive anti-missile missile defenses to shoot down North Korean and also Chinese missiles.


RYO AIBARA for Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, January 14, 2017, reports http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701140038.html

“...Japan currently relies on a two-pronged approach for missile defense, but is considering adding a third element because of the rapid advances in missile technology by North Korea.

...Japan's current missile defense involves a two-tiered system.

Outside of the atmosphere, SM-3 interceptor rockets launched by Aegis vessels would target ballistic missiles, while surface-to-air [Patriot] PAC-3 missiles would be aimed at the ballistic missiles once they re-enter the atmosphere.

Based on the Medium-term [Japanese] Defense Program for the period from fiscal 2014 until fiscal 2018, the number of Aegis destroyers capable of carrying SM-3 rockets will double from the current four. Improvements will also be made on the SM-3 and PAC-3 missiles to expand the range over which they can shoot down ballistic missiles.

[there are also calls in Japan for a third system]...the [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)] system...capable of intercepting missiles moving at far higher trajectories and even outer space.

...A major hurdle for deploying the THAAD is cost. Putting the system into play would require hundreds of billions of yen [many US$ Billions], which may be beyond what the [Japanese] Finance Ministry would sanction given the nation's tight fiscal crunch.



Anonymous said...

Your article is timely as Japan Defence Minister was visiting Guam to take a look at THAAD. THAAD deployment in Guam was mainly driven by timetable since AEGIS ashore can easily do the same.
In my view, unlike ROK, THAAD may not be as suitable for Japan as one will need to deploy many more batteries than AEGIS Ashore. Plus Japan co-funded and participated in the R&D of the SM-3 block 2. That said, the issue for SM-3 is the minimum ceiling of ~100km and that basically excludes defenses against <1000km BM where THAAD could.
I believe a viable and lower cost alternative to THAAD is the Israeli David's Sling for endo-atmospheric intercepts.
I agree that Japan currently using land based PAC-3 is inadequate. I am sure the US will be pushing a longer range Patriot as an alternative to THAAD is cost is an issue.
during the validation phase, THAAD records was not stellar, 4 successes and 7 failures. The maths say it all if that stands in a real shooting war.

MHalblaub said...

The THAAD testing somehow reminds me of the first minutes of this movie:
(Also somehow of the rest...)

A missile fired from North Korea to Tokyo might be to high to intercept with a PAC-3 on the northern coast line. A PAC-3 somewhere in the center of the Island could intercept but the "fallout" will hit Japan. A THAAD system makes sense to keep the Japanese islands clean.


Peter Coates said...


I have to admit I'm not much up on the various anti-missile missile systems, so can only learn from your comments.

THAAD's record of only 4 successes and 7 failures might only encourage North Korea's(NK's) leader Kim. If only one NK nuclear tipped ballistic or cruise missile gets through to a South Korean (ROK) or Japanese city that's one too many.

The promise of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) has a much longer record of success. In that regard whether a "America First" US (soon in range of NK nuclear missiles) will be prepared to go to MAD over third countries (eg. ROK or Japan) is a curious issue.



Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

The star of https://youtu.be/iDYpRhoZqBY?t=2m27s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelsey_Grammer

most famous for playing the soft, sensitive, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frasier_Crane doesn't have the manner of a general at all :)