Emerging Threats, Force Structures, and the Role of Air Power in Korea

By Natalie W. Crawford | Go to book overview

Chapter Nine
THE EMERGING BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT:
GLOBAL AND REGIONAL RAMIFICATIONS
Bruce Bennett1

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, much has been made of the ballistic missile threat posed both in Northeast Asia and throughout the world. While China has posed a serious ballistic missile threat for many years, North Korea has received particular attention since its launch of the Taepo Dong I missile over Japan on August 31, 1998. The intelligence community in the United States had not anticipated North Korean ballistic missile capabilities even close to those demonstrated, suggesting a major intelligence failure,2 the character of which was predicted only a month and a half earlier by the Rumsfeld Commission.3

____________________
1
This paper was originally presented to a conference on “Korean Air Power: Emerging Threats, Force Structure, and the Role of Air Power,” sponsored by Yonsei University on June 11–12, 1999. It reflects the views of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of RAND or its research sponsors. This paper was modified after the conference to clarify some points and add some additional issues, including new revelations on the Chinese and North Korean ballistic missile programs.
2
“CIA Director George Tenet and Army Lieutenant General Patrick Hughes, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday in a classified briefing that they were surprised by the DPRK's test-firing of a three-stage rocket…. Senator Bob Smith, R-N.H., said, ‘The drift of the concern is they're more advanced than we thought they were. The performance of this thing came as a surprise.’” John Diamond, “North Korean Missile Surprised U.S.,” Washington, The Associated Press, Sept. 23, 1998.
3
Executive Summary of the Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, July 15, 1998. A news report on the Commission explained these intelligence failures: “Administration officials have said that U.S. spy satellites have failed to spot or predict key developments in weapons proliferation, such as the Indian nuclear tests in May, because the countries involved have taken steps to conceal their activities from overhead surveillance by working underground, in bad weather, or at night, or by knowing the scheduled orbits of U.S. satellites.” Walter Pincus, “Buried Missile Labs Foil U.S. Satellites: ‘Intelligence Gaps’ Include N. Korea, Iran,” Washington Post, July 29, 1998, p. A1.

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