North Korea's plans to test a long-range missile

Thursday, June 22, 2006

North Korea's plans to test fire a long-range missile are merely the latest efforts of the country to assert itself regionally and internationally, but the plans bring up questions about a new U.S. missile defense system designed to protect against such a threat, according to the director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas.

Dr. Geoffrey Wawro says U.S. military forces should be wary of the missile test fire because North Korea "is a rogue nation craving attention."

"It is unable to get it any other way because of its poverty and relative insignificance," says Wawro, a former professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College and host of four programs on the History Channel. "However, this needs to be placed in perspective alongside the other threats facing the United States."

Wawro says Kim Jong-Il, supreme commander of the North Korean military and the most powerful person in the country's government, is upset about being marginalized by the United States, explaining that since the U.S. has engaged Iran with direct talks over that country's nuclear program, the North Korean regime wants the same.

"They have one little lever they can use as a negotiating tool, and that is the missile," he says.

Wawro points out other talks with North Korea have brought in other nations, including South Korea, China, and Japan.

He adds that the North Korean government has manipulated its people so they are incapable of rising up against it. And because the country's domestic economy is in a shambles, it is incapable of making multiple long-range missiles, he says.

"Even if the missile test is successful, North Korea won't be deploying dozens of these missiles; they can't afford it. They are trying to build a credible threat, and there is always the threat that they could sell this technology to a terrorist group," Wawro says.

U.S. officials have said the nation is ready to respond to the potential North Korean launch with a ground-based missile interceptor system. The program was a key component of President Bush's 2000 election campaign, but Wawro says questions remain as to its effectiveness.

"Nobody knows exactly how the missile defense system will work in a practical sense. The technology is new, and it's somewhat sketchy. In the final analysis, it's the last-ditch tool in the toolbox to deal with this," he says.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108