The Role of Missile Defense in Advancing U.S. National Security and That of Its Allies

Frank A. Rose
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Air Force Association Breakfast Series
Washington, DC
May 5, 2016


Thanks for the kind introduction, Peter

This morning, I wanted to take a few minutes to update you on U.S. missile defense efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. The recent spate of North Korean ballistic missile launches makes this a good time to discuss these issues. Specifically, I’d like to address a couple of key issues:

  • Outline the policy framework for U.S. missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • Discuss the ballistic missile threat from North Korea;
  • Describe the U.S. missile defense deployments and cooperation with Allies in the region;
  • Discuss the decision by the U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) to begin formal consultations on the potential deployment of a THAAD battery to the ROK; and
  • Finally, say a few things about U.S. missile defenses policy with regard to China.

Let me begin by discussing our policy framework for missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region.

Policy Framework for Missile Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region

The 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review (or BMDR) provides the policy framework for U.S. missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific region. With regard to regional missile defense, the BMDR states that: “the United States will defend against regional missile threats to U.S. forces while protecting allies and partners and enabling them to defend themselves.”

Furthermore, the BMDR notes that missile defense supports a number of defense strategy goals, including: maintaining U.S. freedom of action; providing reassurance to friends and allies; and strengthening regional deterrence architectures.

This has been the policy framework that has guided our missile defense efforts in the region over the past several years. Let me now pivot and discuss the North Korean ballistic missile threat in the region.

The North Korean Ballistic Missile Threat

As we have seen recently, North Korea continues to develop, test, and deploy a number of ballistic missile capabilities. These tests not only improve North Korea’s capabilities, but also directly violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions. It also conducted its latest nuclear test on January 6th, and has indicated the explicit intention of fitting nuclear weapons to ballistic missiles for potential attack against U.S. allies and homeland.

Let me begin by briefly recapping the most concerning elements of the North Korean ballistic missile program. In 1998, the DPRK conducted a test launch of a long range ballistic missile that overflew Japan and irresponsibly dropped a rocket stage close to Japanese territory. While the launch was not a success, it spurred a concerted effort by the United States and our allies to monitor, deter, and counter North Korean ballistic missile capabilities.

Since that time, North Korea has continued to make quantitative and qualitative advances in its ballistic missile program.

In 2012, North Korea placed a satellite in orbit with its Taepo-Dong 2 space launch vehicle, which uses ballistic missile technology in contravention of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. This February, North Korea once again conducted a space launch using its Taepo-Dong 2 system, again in clear violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

At a parade in Pyongyang in 2012, the regime unveiled what appeared to be a road-mobile ICBM (KN-08) with a range purportedly capable of reaching the United States.

Our intelligence community assesses that North Korea has already taken initial steps towards fielding this system, although it has not been flight tested. Last October, it paraded a previously unseen, new, or modified road-mobile ICBM.

North Korea has developed an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), which we call the Musudan, with a range greater than 3000 kilometers. The U.S. Strategic Command has assessed that on April 27 and 28, the DPRK carried out launch attempts of presumed Musudan IRBMs that were not successful.

Additionally, on March 11 and 18 North Korea launched its short- and medium-range Scud and No Dong ballistic missiles. North Korea fields hundreds of Scud and No Dong missiles that can reach U.S. forces forward-deployed in the ROK and Japan. On April 23, U.S. Strategic Command tracked a North Korean submarine missile launch.

Let me remind you that multiple UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from launches utilizing ballistic missile technology. I think it’s fair to say that North Korea is the driver of our missile defense efforts in the Asia-Pacific region.

Regional Cooperation

Against this backdrop of the North Korean threat, we are continuing missile defense cooperation through our bilateral alliances and key partnerships in the Asia Pacific.

Ballistic missile defense is an important as a layer of deterrence and denial and is part of an overarching strategy that also includes sanctions, efforts to return to credible and authentic talks with North Korea, and bolstering the capabilities of our allies to defend themselves against future attacks.


Let’s begin by discussing our cooperation with Japan, our most robust missile defense relationship in the region.

As you’re well aware, the U.S. deploys Aegis BMD ships and Patriot batteries in Japan to support the defense of Japan and our deployed forces.

Japan currently deploys four Kongo-class Aegis BMD destroyers, is upgrading two Atago-class destroyers to BMD capability and has plans to acquire two more Atago-class BMD ships bringing it to a total of eight BMD capable vessels. It also deploys 24 Patriot batteries along with an extensive, indigenously developed early warning radar network.

Furthermore, the Japanese Defense Minister recently stated in the press that Japan was considering the possibility of acquiring THAAD.

The United States and Japan are also working closely together to develop the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which will make a key contribution to the European Phased Adaptive Approach as well as ship-based deployments in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere around the world. On December 8, 2015, the Missile Defense Agency and Japan conducted a successful flight test of this interceptor. This development work remains on track for first delivery in the 2018 timeframe.

We also deployed in December 2014 second missile defense radar to Japan, which will enhance the defense of both the United States and Japan.

In the policy arena, we engage with Japan on missile defense issues quite regularly, including at our bilateral Extended Deterrence Dialogues, which is co-chaired on the U.S. side by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and my Bureau at the State Department.

And finally, we are continuing to work on enhancing interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces, which will be aided by the recent changes to the updated U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines. The inclusion of missile defense in these guidelines reflects the valuable contribution of BMD to our collective self-defense.


We also continue to consult closely with Australia.

For example, as a result of U.S.-Australia Foreign and Defense ministerial-level consultations over the past year, the United States and Australia have established a bilateral BMD Working Group to examine options for potential Australian contributions to the BMD architecture in the Asia-Pacific region.

Republic of Korea (ROK)

Turning to the Republic of Korea, the U.S. currently deploys Patriots to defend our deployed forces and support the defense of the ROK.

Additionally, the ROK has been improving its own missile defense capabilities.

For example, the ROK currently deploys Patriot, and last year signed a Foreign Military Sale and Direct Commercial Sale contract to upgrade to PAC-3 and purchase PAC-3 missiles. The ROK is also developing its own indigenous Korean Integrated Air and Missile Defense system and is working to ensure interoperability with U.S. systems.

While Patriot provides an effective “point defense” against short-range ballistic missiles, the U.S.-ROK Alliance could benefit from more “upper tier” missile defense capabilities to address the threat from North Korea’s extended range SCUDs and No Dong medium-range ballistic missiles.

That’s where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (or THAAD) system comes in. In February, the United States and ROK issued a joint statement, which notes that

“In response to the evolving threat posed by North Korea, the United States and the Republic of Korea have made an Alliance decision to begin formal consultations regarding improvements to the Alliance missile defense posture, specifically the viability of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Republic of Korea….The goal of the formal consultations is to bilaterally explore the feasibility of THAAD deploying to and operating on the Korean Peninsula at the earliest possible date.”

If THAAD is deployed to the Korean Peninsula, it would be focused solely on North Korea and contribute to a layered missile defense that would enhance the Alliance's existing missile defense capabilities against North Korean ballistic missile threats.

It is important to note the Alliance has made no final decisions on deploying THAAD in the ROK. That said, China has expressed its opposition to the possible deployment of THAAD to the Republic of Korea. Why is that?

China and U.S. Missile Defense

China has expressed two main military-technical concerns with potential THAAD deployment to the ROK: First, they are concerned about the potential impact of THAAD on China’s strategic nuclear deterrent; and second, they see the deployment as part of a larger U.S. “containment strategy” of China.

That said, before I discuss China’s concerns about THAAD, let me say a few things about U.S. missile defenses more broadly.

We have been clear that our homeland missile defense capabilities provide for defense of the U.S. homeland from limited ICBM attack, and are purposely not intended to affect Russia’s or China’s strategic deterrent. The Ground-based Missile Defense (or GMD) system is designed to support that policy, and it is not scaled, intended, or capable of defending the United States against the larger and more sophisticated arsenals of Russia and China. GMD is designed to protect the U.S. homeland only from limited ICBM attacks from states such as North Korea and Iran.

With this as context, let me respond to a couple of the technical concerns that China has raised about a potential deployment of THAAD to the ROK.

First, despite some claims, THAAD’s single-stage interceptors deployed in the ROK would not have the range or capability to intercept Chinese ICBMs headed to the U.S.

Second, Chinese experts have also expressed concern that THAAD’s radar will be able to see deep into China and provide the U.S. critical information on Chinese ICBMs.

We’ve responded very clearly that the radar would not represent a dramatic increase in U.S. capability, as the U.S. already has two similar radars in Japan and we have other sensor capabilities in the region, such as the Sea-based X-Band radar, Cobra King, and the Cobra Dane radar in the Aleutian Islands.

There have also been concerns that the potential THAAD deployment to Korea is part of a larger attempt by the U.S. to “encircle” or “contain” China by including the ROK in a U.S.-led regional missile defense system.

In response, we have been very clear that it is the threat from North Korea’s extended-range SCUDs and No Dongs that is the driver of a potential THAAD deployment to the ROK. While we will continue to engage China on missile defense, we have made clear to them that as long as North Korea continues to develop, test, and deploy ballistic missiles, we will work with our allies to defend against that threat, including through the deployment of effective missile defenses.

Finally, we have offered several times to discuss China’s technical concerns about THAAD, but they have yet to take us up on this offer.


So let me conclude by reiterating that the Obama Administration is committed to strengthening our missile defense posture around the world, especially on the Korean Peninsula. The United States and its allies will not stand unmoved in the face of North Korea’s provocative ballistic missile launches and nuclear test explosions.

Simply put, North Korea cannot obtain the security, prosperity, or respect it seeks without negotiating an end to its provocative nuclear and missile programs.

Finally, China’s nuclear deterrent is not and will not be threatened by the potential deployment of THAAD to the ROK. At the same time, the United States will remain open to conducting a technical dialogue with China—one that would explain the rationale for a potential THAAD deployment.

Thank you and now I welcome your questions.