Apparently Japan thinks so, and so does the US. Both countries are actively countering any perceived missile threat from the regime in North Korea. For Japan, among other things, they have recently stood up Patriot anti-missile batteries scattered throughout metropolitan areas. So far, JASDF has admitted installing Patriot batteries near Tokyo and Okinawa as well as deploying ship-based Aegis anti-missile defenses.
For the US, one of the several things we have done is that we have pulled our latest radar range missile-tracking ship: the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (hull designation T-AGM-25) from its primary patrol area off the Persian Gulf/Diego Garcia and sent it to the Far East US base at Sasebo, Japan about a month ago. Well, why not? The Iranians are our new best buds, right? They give us our sailors back and don’t blow up our ships. That is might friendly of them eh? So now, the Lorenzen is on station somewhere patrolling in the Sea of Japan between North Korea and Japan. We know it is “on station” because its transponder was shut off sometime after it left Sasebo.
Latest USNS Lorenzen tracking available:
The USNS Lorenzen is operated by the Military Sealift Command of the US Navy, and is the latest – and newest – purpose built missile tracking ship of the US fleet. Most folks didn’t know that there is a very long list of US Air Force ships that have been used – and sometimes crewed – by the Air Force since at least the 1950s. Specifically, it was this type of “range test” or “missile tracking” ship that was involved in our space efforts. At any given time an entire fleet of these ships would be on stations anywhere in the world for all of our Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle deployments as well as our entire missile testing research and development efforts. These ships most notably were involved with the tracking and recovering of our earliest manned space flights, and it was the USNS General H.H. Arnold (T-AGM 9) which tracked the very first Space Shuttle from the Indian Ocean. These Air Force ships have been loosely designated as East Coast (for the Cape Canaveral shots) and the West Coast for anything coming from Vandenberg AFB or elsewhere in the Pacific, and downrange at Kwajalein, US Marshall Islands. But also, these range ships kept track of our adversaries’ space operations and missile testing. That will have to be another story for another day.
I myself was a crewmember way back in the day onboard one of these range tracking ships a couple of times, and am very familiar with the protocols of the duty involved. But if I am allowed speculate now, I would opine that the long-range ICBM efforts being put forward by the North Koreans may in fact be just a prop, a deliberate and even if an obligatory prop non the less. It does seem this same opinion is shared by some very serious folks who make their careers studying such things: the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. Here is their esteemed take:
Suspicious Activity at North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station
“If Pyongyang is preparing for a rocket launch, available imagery indicates that a launch is not imminent and that the North may be at an early stage of preparation.”
However, please note that both Japan and the US have taken this threat very seriously and at great cost. The North Koreans have already shot missiles over Japan, claimed to have put satellites up in orbit, and in general been an attention-seeking nuisance of the ICBM-threat variety. The North Koreans have successfully detonated nuclear devices, and to the rest of the world, that makes it only a step away from a delivery system and being a serious pain in the arse. In reality though, a long-range missile threat is not the real threat IF they can miniaturize a nuclear warhead enough to, say, the size that would fit into the trunk of a car, or smuggle it onto a cargo container ship or oil tanker? How close to a port of call would a half-full oil tanker with even a small nuke secreted into its hold with a remote detonation device have to be for it to be a disastrous threat?
No worries though. We got Patriots! Yea team! No matter that the North Koreans newest BFF just happens to be Iran who has had a nuclear development team in NK for oh, at least a dozen years or so. Imagine that. Who needs centrifuges when you got NorK Nukes? And Iran just secured a 150 billion dollar windfall, apparently for not killing US Navy sailors that drift into their coastal boundaries. Well, gee willikers, I wonder how much a small suitcase nuke costs these days, and if anybody out there knows how to make one?
On another note, I wonder if Dennis Rodman will be tapped by his good bud Barry Obama to be the go-between if any rather embarrassing USS Pueblo-type incident comes up. You know, shit happens. 😛
The gantry tower at TongChang-ri is getting ready to launch a missile. This is not a small-time missile. It is huge, and it is on the East Coast of NK, where NK has posted an International Maritime Organization warning that it intends to put up a satellite with a trajectory traveling South by SW, directly over Okinawa and the Philippines. – reeko