Serious Civil Defense

Harvey is over for me now and I survived unscathed. Things are a mess here and will be for a long time. I wouldn’t say there were any outright failures of civil defense, just many inadequacies. When I get back to regular posting later this month I plan to explore a few of them, particularly the problems with Addicks and Barker dams. I will also write about what worked well, such as the White Oak Bayou watershed program, and how it’s become illegal to pour new concrete without building a retention pond to offset the potential risk that concrete causes.

But as you might imagine, I’m tired of thinking about Harvey. The sun has been shining for four days now, so naturally my thoughts have turned to nuclear weapons. So much has been going on in North Korea and The Board has been silent about it. Here’s something to make up for that lack of attention. Last Tuesday North Korea launched a missile over Japan. Here’s a tourist’s experience of Japan’s very serious civil defense program:

The siren and loudspeaker systems were not originally put in place as a missile warning system, they were already in most places as a warning system against earthquakes and tsunamis. As you can see in the video, they are also a very effective system to warn against missile attacks. This is simply amazing. Given the ranges involved, Japan has only a few minutes warning about missile attacks fired from North Korea. While I will always believe that a quick Duck and Cover between the flash and the blastis a good idea, it’s even better to have as little as three minutes warning to seek more secure shelter.

The Board has written before about Japanese preparations against nuclear missile attack. As I stated in that post, Japan is in a unique position to make an effective civil defense response to a small scale nuclear attack. This is because they have already survived a small scale nuclear attack. They believe survival is possible and understand their efforts can make a strategic difference. They are not incorrect.

But what does all this mean for the balance of power in the North Pacific? I think missile alerts like the ones in the above video that rang out all over Hokkaido piss people off and increase support for a Japanese role in military intervention in North Korea. Japan has participated in air exercises with the US and South Korean air forces many times over the last few years, though I think Japan does not support any kind of conventional counterforce strike against North Korea under normal conditions.

I also found this article quite interesting. Seems there’s support in Japan for upgrading their BMD capability. Japan already has four Aegis BMD equipped ships, and many PAC – 3 batteries. According to this article Japan is considering building a domestic longer range version of PAC-3 and also considering installing Aegis Ashore systems as Romania and Poland have done.

The article also points out that no Japanese interceptors were fired at the North Korean missile. The article is somewhat correct about why this was. Yes, Japan could not have shot down this missile. PAC-3 has a limited coverage area as it is a terminal intercept system, and all Aegis BMD ships were stationed east of Japan where they need to be to take effective shots at missiles that could hit Japan. An Aegis ship would need to be west of Japan to have a decent shot at this test launch.

So why didn’t Japan take a shot at any earlier test launch? The answer should be obvious. Japan wants to recover an intact North Korean reentry vehicle. Did you not imagine there is a secret war to recover North Korean missile components? This is absolutely vital. North Korea has nukes, but maybe not any robust enough to survive a trip on a missile. North Korea has good missiles, but maybe no missile that can guide fragile warhead through reentry.

There’s an intelligence war going on in the Pacific, and we have a president who is a security risk and communicates poorly with his SecDef and the military in general. My only hope is that patriots in the services of the US, Japan, and South Korea will be able to keep us safe.


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