• Heritage Action
  • More

What if... North Korea nuked Seattle?

Created on June 1, 2009

What if... North Korea nuked Seattle?

North Korea Makes the Case for a Robust U.S. Missile Defense

By Ken McIntyre

By all appearances, North Korea's Kim Jong-il is a dictator in a hurry.

No sooner did Kim's repressive regime detonate a nuclear device underground during Memorial Day weekend than it began to get ready above ground to test-launch another long-range missile.

"North Korea has positioned its most sophisticated long-range ballistic missile at a launch site for a test firing that could come within weeks," theLos Angeles Times reported June 1 from Seoul, citing a South Korean newspaper account.

It would be just Kim's style, the report speculates, to go for maximum drama by test-firing a missile or missiles June 16 -- when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington. The communist regime's last test of long-range missiles was April 6.

Among Kim's obvious goals is for Pyongyang to be able to threaten Washington and other major American cities with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) armed with nuclear warheads.

For now, that remains a future threat. But the consequences of one such missile strike - on Seattle, for instance - would be dire.

"North Korea has initiated a rapid-fire series of provocations against the U.S., South Korea and Japan without allowing time for diplomatic outreach," Bruce Klingner, The Heritage Foundation's expert on North Korea, wrote within hours of the underground test blast. "The rapid pace since January indicates North Korea is intent on achieving a viable nuclear weapon and ICBM delivery capability."

Pyongyang's activities "underscore the critical need for America to develop and deploy a missile defense system," Klingner, a former CIA official, notes in outlining concrete steps the U.S. should take to counter Kim.

Dong-a Ilbo, a newspaper in Seoul, first reported the expected launch and said it likely involves a version of the Taepodong-2 rocket fired by Pyongyang in April -- and theoretically capable of reaching Alaska.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reacted by saying he may not continue to recommend cuts in the still-developing missile defense program if North Korea keeps up such belligerence.

"If anything, I think what the North Koreans have done has won more adherents to the importance of our having at least a unified missile defense capability," Gates said during a visit June 1 to the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greeley in Alaska, the Associated Press reported.

President Obama has said he remains skeptical of missile defense technology, despite a high success rate in U.S. military tests.

Experts in the field make the case for the technology in "33 Minutes: Protecting America in the New Missile Age," Heritage's plain-talking, nonpartisan documentary film on the need to counter the growing threat of missile attack.

"The threat that a North Korean nuke could reach us is on the horizon," Heritage national security expert Peter Brookes writes of the test that took place Memorial Day weekend."We don't know how distant that horizon is, but it appears to have moved closer."