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all eyes on north korea

Defense experts warn that America probably can't shoot down North Korea's missiles

Defense experts have long warned that American anti-missile capabilities are still a longshot technology that likely would fail against a determined foe — say, North Korea. The U.S. government and media hasn't curbed its excitement about Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems, though, with Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves claiming a successful test in July proves America will "stay ahead of the evolving threat."

Not so, writes Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione. "Reporters routinely use words like 'shield' and 'dome' to describe our supposed capability, giving us a false sense of security," Cirincione wrote for Defense One. "Officials make the matter worse with exaggerated, if carefully constructed, claims."

He added that "the number one reason we don't shoot down North Korea's missiles is that we cannot," pointing to North Korea's missile test that flew over Japan last week:

If North Korea cooperated and shot their new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, at the United States with adequate warning so that we could prepare, and if the warhead looked pretty much like we expect it to look, and if they only shot one, and if they did not try to spoof the defense with decoys that looked like the warhead, or block the defense with low-power jammers, or hide the warhead in a cloud of chaff, or blind the defense by attacking the vulnerable radars, then, maybe [the U.S. military could defend against a North Korean attack]. The United States might have a 50-50 chance of hitting such a missile. If we had time to fire four or five interceptors, then the odds could go up. [Defense One]

But "North Korea is unlikely to cooperate," Cirincione adds. Read his full, chilling warning at Defense One, and more about if America can protect itself against North Korean missiles here at The Week.