[Mb-civic] US Destroyers Deploying off North Korea

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Sat Sep 25 12:22:34 PDT 2004

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    U.S. Destroyers Deploying off North Korea
    The Associated Press

     Friday 24 September 2004
 Ships are first phase in Bush plan for 'missile shield'.

    ABOARD THE USS CORONADO ‹ In the first step toward erecting a
multibillion-dollar shield to protect the United States from foreign
missiles, the U.S. Navy will begin deploying state-of-the-art destroyers to
patrol the waters off North Korea as early as next week.

     The mission, to be conducted in the Sea of Japan by ships assigned to
the Navy¹s 7th fleet, will help lay the foundation for a system to detect
and intercept ballistic missiles launched by ³rogue nations.²

     Washington hopes to complete the network over the next several years.

     ³We are on track,² Vice Admiral Jonathan Greenert, commander of the 7th
Fleet, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday aboard the USS
Coronado, which is based just south of Tokyo. ³We will be ready to conduct
the mission when assigned.²

     ŒHighest priority¹

    The deployment will be the first in a controversial program that is high
on President Bush¹s defense agenda. Bush cleared the way to build the system
two years ago by withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,
which banned ship-based missile defenses.

     He said protecting America from ballistic missiles was ³my highest
priority as commander in chief, and the highest priority of my

     The project ‹ likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet, only at three
times the speed ‹ is exceedingly complex, prompting many critics to argue
that it will never be reliable or effective. It is also expensive, with an
estimated price tag of $51 billion over the next five years.

     Even so, the missile threat is hard to deny.

     More than 30 nations have ballistic missiles, according to the U.S.
Defense Department¹s Missile Defense Agency. Though exact times depend on
where the launch occurs, missiles could in less than 30 minutes reach
virtually anywhere within the United States.

     Greenert refused to give a specific date for the first deployment from
the 7th Fleet, but said a deadline of Oct. 1 ‹ next Friday ‹ announced by
Navy Secretary Gordon England in March has not changed.

     Greenert, who assumed command of the Navy¹s largest fleet last month,
also refused to name a target for the Sea of Japan patrols.

     ³I can¹t specify adversaries, but you¹re looking at rogue nations,² he
said in his first interview since taking the fleet command. ³Take it from

     The country best fitting that description in East Asia is communist
wildcard North Korea, which has missiles capable of reaching the American
west coast and is believed to either already possess or be well on its way
toward successfully developing nuclear weapons.

     The North shocked Japan in 1998 by launching a multistage ³Taepodong²
ballistic missile over Japan¹s main island. Tokyo responded by beefing up
its own surveillance capabilities and launching its first spy satellites in
March 2003.

     Deep distrust 

    Though Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won a promise in 2002
from the North for a moratorium on further long-range tests, distrust runs

     This week, Japanese naval ships were dispatched to the waters off North
Korea amid reports that Pyongyang was preparing to test launch a ³Nodong²
missile, which can reach much of Japan ‹ and the more than 50,000 U.S.
troops stationed there ‹ in just minutes.

     North Korea is believed to have at least 100 of the missiles.

     Because of the North Korean threat, Japan has become the first country
to agree to work with Washington on the missile defense project. It is
upgrading its own destroyers and acquiring better U.S.-made interceptors ‹
the ship-launched Standard Missile-3 and the ground-based Patriot Advanced

     ³The Japanese are very interested in developing a missile defense,²
Greenert said.

     He said the role of the 7th Fleet destroyers will be to provide
long-range search and tracking of missile activity. Eventually, data gleaned
by the ships would be transmitted to Ft. Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air
Force Base in California, where, if necessary, interceptor missiles would be

     But for now, tracking and monitoring are as far as the mission can go.
The interceptors won¹t be fully deployed at the American bases until next



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