Pentagon Considers Shooting Down North Korea Missile Tests

Tyler Durden's picture

Just when a few hours had passed without any escalation around the Korean Peninsula, The Guardian reports that the US military is considering shooting down North Korean missile tests as a show of strength to Pyongyang according to two sources briefed on the plans.

As the USS Carl Vinson heads towards the peninsula, along with two oither carriers, the Pentagon is looking for ways short of war to pressure North Korea into denuclearization, particularly if Pyongyang goes forward with an anticipated sixth nuclear test.

The option, which defense secretary James Mattis has briefed to Congress, has, as The Guardian reports, yet to mature into a decision by the military to intercept a tested missile. One US official said the prospective shoot-down strategy would be aimed at occurring after a nuclear test, with the objective being to signal Pyongyang that the US can impose military consequences for a transgression Donald Trump has said is unacceptable. But experts and former officials said shooting down a North Korean missile during a test risks an escalation that Washington may not be able to control, one that risks war on the Korean peninsula and potentially devastating consequences to allies South Korea and Japan.

“I would see such an action as escalatory, but I couldn’t guess how Kim Jong-un would interpret it,” said Abraham Denmark, the senior Pentagon policy official for Asia in Barack Obama’s administration.


“But I would be concerned he would feel the need to react strongly, as he would not want to appear weak.”

Both sources said the military was not looking to use the high-profile missile-defense system the US is providing to South Korea, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad). Thaad’s 200km range and sophisticated radar have unnerved China, whose president, Xi Jinping, has been coaxed by Trump into pressuring North Korea. 

In the past, several US administrations have considered shooting down North Korean missile tests, only to turn away from the option when considering the consequences of escalation against an unpredictable and bellicose adversary. Rumors have circulated since Trump took office that he has been mulling a shoot-down. A US official said the military was discussing a potential shoot-down ahead of Trump’s meeting with Xi on 6 April at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The discussion also preceded Friday’s North Korean military parade, during which Pyongyang displayed advancements in its intercontinental ballistic missile program and anti-ship missiles, as well as a test-launch failure on Saturday. Senior Pentagon officials pondering the shoot-down option are said to have conceded they are unsure how North Korea would respond, especially considering North Korea's comments...

"If the U.S. is reckless enough to use military means, from that very day, there will be all out war. Our nuclear weapons protect us from that threat," Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC's John Sudworth. "We'll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis," he threatened. He said that an "all-out war" would result if the US took military action.

Neither Pentagon nor US Pacific Command representatives responded to a request for comment. Another factor complicating a shoot-down would be the risk of embarrassment should Aegis interceptors miss a North Korean target, which might embolden Pyongyang and unnerve US regional allies.

Ken Gause, director of the international-affairs group at the CNA thinktank influential with the Pentagon, said US planners have grown frustrated with coercive diplomacy amid North Korea’s maturing nuclear and missile capability. But Gause said that while Washington might spin a shoot-down as a step below an attack on North Korea or an attempt to overthrow its government, it risked validating Kim’s position that North Korea needs nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to respond to American aggression.

“I still see this as escalatory and playing with potential fire. At the end of the day, Kim Jong-un cannot be seen internally as backing down from pressure”, Gause said.

It seems odd that the US would telegraph this intent - given Trump's campaign discussions of not doing exactly this. Or is this simply a way of showing that the Pentagon remains on a war footing despite a very temporary lull in global thermonuclear ware rhetoric.

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Canadian Dirtlump's picture

High stakes game of skeet shooting. I guess when South Korea and Japan are the true stakeholders ( the ones who are going to get their faces melted off ) why should the neo cons care?

Looney's picture


Let’s play Nostradamus, shall we?

We will keep threatening North Korea and we will keep yanking China’s chain.

Our carrier will show up there, but we will do absolutely nothing.

Little Kim will keep test-launching his rockets, but we will keep doing nothing.

THEN, in the middle of the night and with no warning, we will pack our shit, sail home, and declare victory.   ;-)


Yukon Cornholius's picture

How many aircraft carriers does it take to overthrow a cartoon character?

BaBaBouy's picture

The Legend... They Call Him "Itchy Fingers" Don...

nuubee's picture

Don't need to shoot them down if you know their abort codes and frequencies.

BaBaBouy's picture

Running Windows ??? LOL

nuubee's picture

It's ok, it's a China Windows clone.

gmrpeabody's picture

Yes, yes.., all of this is assumung we actually hit it.

But what would happen if the world saw us miss..?

J S Bach's picture

When did we contract this hubris that we should dictate who can and cannot have missiles?!  It would be like you owning a gun, but then going up and down your street policing who amongst your neighbors can and cannot have one themselves.  The arrogance of America is incredible. 

Itinerant's picture

I have yet to read an argument that could convince Kim Jung-Un that he would be safer or better off without nukes.

He doesn't really need a missile either. A fishing boat could be a good delivery mechanism to take out Seoul, Tokyo, or an aircraft battle group.

Donald Trump's picture
Donald Trump (not verified) Itinerant Apr 18, 2017 12:23 PM

The big neighbors of North Korea won't allow it. Regardless what Kim Jung-Un does in  hiw own backyard, Russia and China are FINE with that. Hell, they even helped him during all this time.

They would rather have N Korea taking over the entire peninsula, than the US.

So keep that in mind.

Report: Russia and China Head for Korean Peninsula as U.S Deployed Two Additional Carriers

sushi's picture

I guess the USSA havng estabkished the precedent with respect to an "International Show of Force" will have no objection when some other SE Asian state sinks the CVN Carl Vinson as an "International Show of Force"

Once you establish the precedent every one else is free to make use of it.



Helix6's picture

C'mon JSB.  People in this country think it's OK to shoot a bear while it's hibernating.  "Arrogance" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Mithera's picture

Arrogance mixed with Ignorance...and dont forget a liberal serving of Retardation.

 There... You just made an "American"

nah's picture

Rifles are one thing weapons that can be concealed need a background check by the FBI


A TOW missile launcher is not for sale, the government does put M1A2 Abrams in peoples front yard from time to time


Nuclear capable ICBM's and or miniaturized nuclear warheads you can tow with an oxcart is also a reserved privilege just for you

tmosley's picture

We don't let criminals have guns. North Korea is literally a criminal polity, having engaged in massive bank robbery and counterfeiting, never mind the kidnapping of foreigners or the oppression of their own people.

J S Bach's picture

"We don't let criminals have guns. North Korea is literally a criminal polity, having engaged in massive bank robbery and counterfeiting, never mind the kidnapping of foreigners or the oppression of their own people."

Surely you jest, TM.  Are you implying that the U.S. doesn't counterfeit and is an internationally law-abiding country having never invaded nor robbed other nations?

Hmmm... tell that to:

1. Grenada (1983-1984)
2. Bolivia (1986)
3. Virgin Islands (1989)
4. Liberia (1990; 1997; 2003)
5. Saudi Arabia (1990-1991)
6. Kuwait (1991)
7. Somalia (1992-1994; 2006)
8. Bosnia (1993-)
9. Zaire/Congo (1996-1997)
10. Albania (1997)
11. Sudan (1998)
12. Afghanistan (1998; 2001-) 
13. Yemen (2000; 2002-)
14. Macedonia (2001)
15. Colombia (2002-)
16 Pakistan (2005-)
17. Syria (2008; 2011-)
18. Uganda (2011)
19. Mali (2013)
20. Niger (2013)
21. Yugoslavia (1919; 1946; 1992-1994; 1999)
22. Iraq (1958; 1963; 1990-1991; 1990-2003; 1998; 2003-2011)
23. Angola (1976-1992)

I highly doubt that the North Koreans can hold a candle to America's list of conquests and bullying over the last 30 years.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Kim was feeling so, so ronery.   

youngman's picture

thats the problem..if we miss..then kim knows he can fire at will.....

hannah's picture

north korea uses linux...i've installed the os and played around with it. ...damn near shot myself with an anti-aircraft gun in the process.....

Equinox's picture


Meet Red Star OS, the North Korean Linux distro that apes Apple's OS X

SoilMyselfRotten's picture

How many aircraft carriers does it take to overthrow a cartoon character?


If we're not careful, one less than is currently deployed there

Kotzbomber747's picture

I got this feeling that Trump is being taken for the proverbial ride by Xi/China.

Remember the Spratly Islands....? Nobody is talking about this anymore.

Guess what: Xi will want some concessions from Trump when it comes to China reigning in Norht Korea and I'm pretty sure that China has NOT forgotten those little atols and man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Kotzbomber747's picture

Trump would drain the swamp ey...?


veritas semper vinces's picture

What makes Trump think he coud drain NK swamp when he could not drain his swamp here?

Equinox's picture

What does this have to do with what OS NK uses?


researchfix's picture

Should at least be one with a working compass. Seems Carl Victor is lost somewhere.

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

"Don't need to shoot them down if you know their abort codes and frequencies."


You don't need to shoot them down if they apparently can't fly in the first place. Much like everyone chalking trump's moves up to playing 9 dimensional chess - people seem to have decided that the recent missile crashes were savvy US cyber attacks rather than just shitty weapons systems in a country that barely has the internet, and is one of the better places on earth I would think to watch stars from given there is next to no light pollution at night.

Let's not forget that North Korea is such an AIDS basket, that North Koreans, who are essentially identical to South Koreans are significantly smaller than their brethren.

Has anyone considered the possibility that this hermit kingdom is a fraction of the threat that the western media unitedly presents it to be? Like Hussein and Gaddafi apparently were?


We all love a good show though. Afterall. NOrth Korea hacked Sony ( no they didn't ).

tmosley's picture

Remember that time they shot a missile over Japan?

Seems like their prowess has taken a huge hit, just coincidentally at about the same time that the CIA infiltrated all the computer hardware and software on the fucking planet.

The problem isn't necessarily how big of a threat HE is, but how big of a threat the NEXT guy will be after his regime collapses or there is a coup. Or if he decides to implement his own "Samson Option" and launch nukes DURING such a coup. No skin off his sack, as he was going to die anyways. Might as well go out with a bang.

07564111's picture

So that's exactly the same as the US ? The world wonder how dangerous is the one comes after Trump ;)

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

Careful not to give out any classified information. So most recently they fired 4 missiles INTO the sea of Japan. Not OVER Japan.


Maybe a welfare kingdom with limited resources, after blowing their last few servicable missiles now are putting shit together as fast as they can?


Regarding your imaginary Samson option, It's unclear what their nuclear capabilities / ballistic missile capabilities even are. What the actual samson option that exists is - is the artillery pointed at South Korea. That's the type of shit billy badasses like you could trigger trying to be Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible.




BarkingCat's picture

Don't need to do anything.

Hope that they test fire one each week.

It is a rather expensive venture

ToSoft4Truth's picture

Kim only has to get one nuke close, then jobs for everyone rebuilding Navy ships. 

TBT or not TBT's picture

Or an EMP enhanced nuke in a polar orbit.  One of those could end the USA.    

Bigern's picture

Everyone is so focused on nukes. Biochem is the really devastating element of forward deployed weaponry. It can be pre-positioned and deployed anywhere. It is nearly unstoppable and uncontainable. The effect on a populace would be devastating. Commerce would halt. Fear would be the order of the day. People can compartmentalize being instantly vaporized. Getting a horrible disease or permanent nervous system damage is another matter entirely.

Bigern's picture

Only one, if you are using Axis and Allies pieces. He will trip and fall on it.

HomeBrewPrepper's picture

Is it just me? Or are the war drums beating heavily

Reminds me of before both Iraq wars.

It's all I freaking see

freewolf7's picture

Maintain the frequency of fear. Are you not entertained?

Darktarra's picture

There must be some way to turn thermonuclear war in Korea into a game show on Fox! 

freedogger's picture

Dumb question but isn't shooting these down just giving North Korea a better test?

sheikurbootie's picture

You're confusing the magical negro (whimpy) with Trump. 


Haus-Targaryen's picture

Hate to be the one to clue you in -- they're apparently the same person. 

sheikurbootie's picture

I'll assume you're not from around here.  Trump is following Reagan's playbook.  EVERY show of force during the Reagan era ended with a trigger being pulled.  This is not about Trump, this is about American being back and leading from the front.  If China fails to fix DPNK, then Trump will end the problem for the world.  These is no turning back.  It's the American way.  We're not afraid to fight and die.   We're also not ashamed to leave S. Korea on their own.

The end goal is to get our troops out of S.Korea.  We've been there since 1955.  Bringing 28,000 troops home permanently makes good economic sense.  We can't afford it anyway.

No, this is the end game.  Either we fight or we abandon S. Korea forever.  Either way, we are leaving.