US-South Korea War Games May Be On Hold, But The Pentagon Isn't Taking Any Chances


Upcoming U.S.-South Korean “war games” may be on hold, but the Pentagon is moving forward with plans to upgrade missile defense systems designed to counter a strike by North Korea against Seoul or other regional allies, according to the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

“We absolutely hope that diplomacy is successful,” Air Force Lieutenant General Sam Greaves said in an interview Tuesday in Washington, “but at the same time we must remain vigilant to provide the capability that’s needed.”

The Defense Department is sticking with plans to bolster the high-altitude interceptor known as THAAD as well as lower-altitude Patriot interceptor batteries deployed on the Korean peninsula, Greaves said.

It’s the mixture of conciliation and strength that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is trying to project on a visit that brought him to Beijing on Tuesday, with stops to follow in South Korea and Japan. “I want to go in right now without basically poisoning the well at this point,” Mattis told reporters before departing on his trip. “I want to go in and do a lot of listening.”

Related: US, South Korea To Suspend War Games Amid North Korea Dialogue »

Mattis confirmed last week that he’s suspended some impending joint exercises with South Korea on orders from President Donald Trump. But the suspension didn’t apply to the longer-term missile defense upgrades, Greaves said.

Trump appeared to surprise aides and allies when he announced June 12 that “we will be stopping the war games” following his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Trump — who wrote in a tweet that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” — also said he wants to avoid harsh rhetoric against Kim and his country, at least while talks between the two sides are productive.

But the Pentagon plans for all contingencies. Its latest national defense strategy describes North Korea as a rogue regime that “seeks to guarantee regime survival and increased leverage by seeking a mixture of nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional, and unconventional weapons and a growing ballistic missile capability to gain coercive influence over South Korea, Japan, and the United States.”

The missile defense upgrades were aided by Senate passage last week of its version of the $716 billion defense policy bill, which authorized an extra $284 million for the improvements, more than the $81 million requested by the Pentagon to continue the integration effort.

The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test in South KoreaDoD photo

THAAD — the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system built by Lockheed Martin Corp. — was controversial even before Trump allowed its deployment to go forward in April 2017. With its advanced radar and its ability to target short and medium-range missiles at high altitudes in their “terminal” phase, as they descend, China says THAAD threatens its security and has repeatedly called for its removal from the Korean peninsula.

The system’s installation was also greeted by some protests in South Korea. President Moon Jae-in denounced the deployment before he was elected, though he later embraced it as North Korea ramped up its ballistic missile and nuclear bomb tests.

The added funds from Congress are expected to further the design, development and eventual deployment of three main capability upgrades called for by U.S. and South Korean commanders in a request known as a “Joint Emergent Operational Need.”

That includes strengthening the capabilities of the THAAD and Patriot systems to communicate and feed off each other’s targeting data. That upgrade has already been tested once this year, Greaves said. During the test, data were passed from THAAD's Raytheon Co. radar known as the AN/TPY-2 to a Patriot battery located some distance away. This allowed Patriot missiles to be automatically fired based on the other missile system’s radar.

Related: Here’s Exactly Why War With North Korea Would Be Hell »

The second improvement will be introducing on the Korean peninsula the latest, more powerful version of the Patriot missile called the “Missile Segment Enhancement” and integrating it with THAAD batteries, according to Greaves.

The third improvement will be to develop and field a communications capability that lets a THAAD missile launcher move farther from its command location, covering a wider area.

When deployed, these capabilities will allow the THAAD and Patriot systems “to work in a coordinated fashion resulting in more effective and cost-efficient layered defense” — meaning the more expensive missile intended for high-altitude targets could be saved when a cheaper Patriot can be used instead, Greaves explained.

The upgrades will continue “unless we get different direction from the president,” Greaves said. The issue may arise this week when Mattis visits South Korea.


©2018 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


President Donald Trump hit back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday with a letter saying he was "sorry to inform" her that her trip to Brussels, Belgium and Afghanistan would be canceled due to the government shutdown, just one day after Pelosi proposed cancelling the State of the Union address for similar reasons.

Read More Show Less
Marine Corps drill instructor R. Lee Ermey in his iconic role in 'Full Metal Jacket' (Warner Bros.)

Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey, the legendary Marine drill instructor turned iconic Full Metal Jacket actor who died last year, will be formally laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at 10 a.m. on Jan. 18, according to the cemetery's web site.

Read More Show Less
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum/IMDB

John Wick doesn't give a fuck. He doesn't care about the rules of fancy hotels. He doesn't care about the odds, considering he's always outnumbered and always ends up the last man standing.

And he definitely doesn't give a damn about traffic laws, made apparent in the new trailer for John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.

Read More Show Less

Ever since Robert Heinlein introduced the world to the fascist future of intergalactic warfare with 1959's Starship Troopers, the world has been fixated on seeing the powered armor he envisioned become a reality.

Heinlein's powered armor comes in many shapes and sizes. Call it an exoskeleton like the U.S. Army does or an 'Iron Man' suit like the minds behind U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit occasionally do. But everyone loves the idea of skimming enemy territory with jet-assisted leaps and bounds, your Y-rack firing out small H.E. bombs every couple hundred yards while looking like, in Heinlein's words "a big steel gorilla, armed with gorilla-sized weapons.

The bizarre garbage pile that the Ghanian military trotted out last month is the complete opposite of that.

Read More Show Less