us missilesThe already incredibly frayed tensions between the U.S. and North Korea took another turn toward the wrong direction as the U.S. announced that they will be looking to improve and focus on plans to up their domestic missile defence systems on home ground in response to an increasing nuclear threat emanating from the communist regime in North Korea.

This news comes following an announcement by U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that 14 new interceptors would be placed throughout Alaska, which would see a significant 50% increase in defensive capabilities for the U.S.

Not only that, but Hagel also says that the U.S are working alongside their counterparts in Japan, and are looking to deploy new radar systems closer to North Korea that would offer better ways of monitoring movement from North Korea. Specifically, being able to identify if any form of missile is launched by North Korean forces, so as to be able to respond quicker to any long-range missile threat should that materialise.

This system of air defence has been in place since 2004 while the U.S was run by George W Bush, and since then constant improvements are being made to the project to keep up with the progress that the Americans hear the North Koreans are making year by year.

In the past year alone, North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, all of which were successful. Along with that, they recently launched a satellite into orbit above the Earth, which has aroused suspicion around the world and particularly the U.S, due to the fact that the satellite is believed to be using technology that is used for tracing and guiding long-range missiles.

Defence Secretary Hagel went on to tell the press at the Pentagon that the “irresponsible” actions of Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean armed forces have forced the hand of the Americans, and that they have been left with no choice but to meet the advances of North Korea with their own: – “The United States has missile systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) attacks, but North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and is engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations”.

The nuclear threat from North Korea toward the U.S comes not long after they made a similar threat toward their neighbours South Korea, and told them that they would threaten to reduce the South Korean capital city of Seoul to a “Sea of fire”.

As a result of U.S. commitment to improving their own system, and in light of these recent rumblings from North Korea, the proposed European missile defence shield project has had its final phase of development scrapped due to, what Mr Hagel says is a result of funding cuts after citing problems with the development.

The project involved setting up upgraded interceptors in Poland to protect against intermediate-range missiles from the Middle East. Other plans saw the U.S wanting to place identical interceptors in Russia, which the Russian government were quick to say that they were strongly opposed to.

The news that these final phase plans for the project were to be scrapped was announced quickly and very quietly at a news conference in Washington, and despite cutting funding and resources to the program, Mr Hagel promised that there should be no reason to feel that there is any less protection across Europe from these threats. He said: – “Let me emphasise the strong and continued commitment of the United States to NATO missile defence. That commitment remains ironclad”.

Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association says that the final phase of the program was already falling through before plans had even been put in place, and that to cut investment from the program in favour of funding U.S missile defence has nothing but a good outcome in the long term: – “Cancelling phase 4 opens the door to another round of US-Russian nuclear arms reductions”.

“We give up nothing since phase 4 wasn’t panning out anyway. It’s a win-win for the United States”.

While this may be very true, and that taking the money being invested from a project already under negative scrutiny into national security is indeed a logical solution to the supposed progress of the North Koreans along with the threat that they carry, it is unlikely to instil confidence into their European counterparts who were likely to feel more assured about the United States’ integrity toward NATO should they have seen the final phase of the original plans in Poland go through.

Although Defence Secretary Hagel has spoken on behalf of himself and the United States when saying that their commitment to NATO is indeed “ironclad”, it leaves a lot of leaders and world governments looking nervously over their shoulder. Not only is the rising threat from North Korea toward the U.S. and its allies becoming more prominent, but those dependant on the technology and military equipment that the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) would have provided, should it have been seen toward its end, are noting the other threats that remain just as prominent and threatening as ever outside the Far East.

With such large-scale tension, there is the almost inevitable collateral damage that follows in its wake, and as the U.S and North Korea continue to try and force each other’s hand more intensely, there are those organisations in the peripheries of the argument that have the potential to exploit the growing rumblings, or fall into the wake of something that may soon grow out of control in the quest for military dominance.

BY: Robert Pritchard

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