Category Archives: Asia

Summary of October 29th Meeting on North Korea

Summary of October 29th

Meeting on North Korea

Note: This presentation and the question and answer period were “off the record”. Respecting that, what follows is a sanitized version of the in depth and frank exchanges that characterized this NSF session.

The National Security Forum heard a most interesting presentation on “North Korea: How can the US and the world deal with this rogue regime?” The presentation was done by Reno-native Captain Craig Blakely (USN), who is the Division Chief, Northeast Asia JCS Joint Staff, J5 Strategic Plans. Blakely discussed developments in Pyongyang with the assumption of power by Kim Jong-Un and American/UN options in dealing with this rogue state.

Blakely underlined that North Korea represents a major threat not only to stability in Asia but increasingly on a global scale as the regime’s nuclear and missile delivery capabilities increase. Many American administrations as well as various international groupings have attempted to modify North Korean behavior through sanctions and other measures, with little success.

North Korea’s Evolution  

CAPT Blakely briefly reviewed the history of the Koreas following the division of the peninsula after WWII. For a number of years both Koreas remained roughly equal in economic production, until South Korea began overtaking the North following the Korean War. The big leaps occurred beginning in the late 1970s, and by 1982 South Korea had overtaken the North. Now the per capita GDP in the South is 20 times that of the North.

The population in the South is roughly 48 million, double that in the North. Infant mortality in the North is 7 times that in South Korea, life expectancy in the North is 69, but ten years more in the South. While the South spends twice what the North does on the military, expenditures per capita (as a % of GDP) is ten times higher in the North.

While South Korea has a very diverse society and a wide-ranging and entrepreneurial economy, North Korea remains highly stratified with a prosperous elite ruling over a very poor populace. The North Korean economy has stagnated compared to its near-neighbors China, Japan, and the South.

The New leader Kim Jong-Un is only 29 years old, although the North describes him as 30 for some psychological rationale. He is described as young and impulsive, a leader who lacks experience and seems to be very clumsy when dealing with domestic and foreign challenges. While there has been speculation that he is a mere puppet to those behind the scene, it does appear that the young leader is increasingly “in charge”.

Kim Jong-Un seems to be continuing the frustrating “cycle of provocation” of his predecessors. Pyongyang seems to shift rapidly from a desire to engage in meaningful talks to yet another incident that leads the region into conflict.

The critical issue in dealing with the North is its nuclear weapons capabilities and the missile delivery methods it maintains. Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear test and two threatening missile/satellite launches under the new ruler’s reign. The regime appears to have restarted a plutonium reactor. In response, the U.S. has emplaced a ballistic missile defense unit in Guam. To counter a potential North Korean “breakout”, the US maintains an extended deterrence, including a nuclear umbrella with allies South Korea and Japan.

American policy makers have to worry about not only dealing with an aggressive and impulsive North Korea, but also consider the possibility of a sudden collapse of that state.

Many in the audience expressed disappointment in the lack of positive involvement by Beijing in resolving problems in the North. However in the past, while China served as Pyongyang’s’ primary ally in the region and provided extensive humanitarian and food assistance, Beijing seems to have put some distance between itself and the new regime, and appears inclined not to reward Pyongyang’s poor behavior. That is not to say that China has become a responsible participant to the extent it could.

The “6-Party” talks aimed at “denuclearizing” the entire peninsula have been off and on for years. There seems to be no appetite on the part of the U.S. and regional powers to relax the sanctions that are in place. In sum, CAPT Blakely noted that the United States exercises “strategic patience” in dealing with the North, seeking to mitigate potential conflicts that break out while continuing to attempt to promote more positive behavior by the North.

In that strategy, even “civilian diplomats” like Dennis Rodman can play a role!

We have attached CAPT Blakely’s slides used in the presentation for your review:



Final reminder! November 14th Meeting

The National Security Forum presents

China’s Politico-Military Posture: 

Aggressive or Defensive?


Professors Xiaoyu Pu and John Scire 

The Ramada, Thursday, November 14, at 9:00 am


The United States has shifted its military strategy to East Asia, reflecting a turn away from a focus on the wars in the Middle East and new concerns over the “rise of China”. The PRC has enhanced its power projection capabilities and has been very active in asserting its claims in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which concern Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and other regional powers. There have been concerns raised over China’s ambitious military modernization program (including aircraft carriers), its pervasive cyber intrusion activities, the claims to extensive areas in the nearby waters, and the continuing stifling of any domestic dissent. But do these actions represent anything more than what a growing regional power might pursue, and one that feels it must keep order in the country given economic maldistribution, ethnic tensions, and western social media intrusion?

Our speakers will debate the issue of whether China’s actions represent a more aggressive policy stance by Beijing, or are these measures more defensive in nature? UNR professors Dr. Xiaoyu Pu and Dr. John Scire will take opposite sides in what promises to be a most provocative debate. Dr. Pu is a native of SW China, Sichuan Province, was educated at Nankai University and later at Kent State, and received his PhD from Ohio State in 2012. Dr. Pu just completed a year of post-doctorate work at Princeton. His research has been published in journals such as International Security and The China Quarterly. Dr. Scire has a PhD from UNR where he has taught since 1993. He is the author of numerous works on energy policy and has delivered talks on The New World Order, China’s Political Power Capacity, and US politico-military issues. He has 30 years military experience, having served in both the Marines and the Army, and deployed in Viet Nam, Korea, and other hot spots.

Please join us for what will certainly be a lively debate! A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $5 for students with ID; free for WWII veterans), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Kindly RSVP on our website by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email We are also now accepting credit cards at the door for your convenience.


Final Reminder! October 29th Meeting on North Korea

The National Security Forum presents


North Korea:

 How can the US and the world

deal with this rogue regime?


 Captain Craig Blakely

Division Chief, Northeast Asia

JCS Joint Staff, J5 Strategic Plans

  The Ramada, Tuesday, October 29 at 9:00 am

North Korea represents a major threat not only to stability in Asia but increasingly on a global scale as the regime’s nuclear and missile delivery capabilities increase. Many American administrations as well as various international groups have attempted to modify North Korean behavior through sanctions and other measures, with little success.

CAPT Blakely will discuss recent developments in Pyongyang with the assumption of power by Kim Jung-Un and will discuss American/UN options in dealing with this rogue state. He will provide the historic context that lead to a divided Korean peninsula, which set the stage for the Korean War and vastly different development futures in the North and the South. Blakely will address what we know of the young new leader, and what appears to be changing under his rule. With the North’s missile delivery capability a key concern, Blakely will describe how the U.S. is dealing with the nuclear issue and the North’s growing intercontinental delivery capability. He will also assess the positions taken by other governments in the region, most importantly China, especially with respect to achieving the objective of a nuclear-free peninsula.

CAPT Blakely’s responsibilities on the Joint Staff include working with the Japanese on regional issues and on the thorny issue of where to base U.S. forces there. He also works closely with his South Korean counterparts on a range of challenges, most importantly those concerning the defense of the South. In accordance with the new Defense Guidance (DG), Blakely is working with the Pacific Command to improve Chinese-American military to military relationships (that will culminate soon with the Chinese participating in “RIMPAC 2014”, the largest naval exercise ever!)

Reno native Craig Blakely commanded the nuclear attack submarine USS COLUMBIA deployed in the north Pacific, and has served primarily in submarine-related assignments in the Mideast as well as the Pacific regions. He also has served in several nuclear policy issue positions, at sea and in the Office of the Director of Submarine Warfare. Blakely holds a BS degree from UC-Davis and an MPA degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School.


Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $5 for students with ID; free for WWII veterans), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

There are still plenty of spaces available for this event. Kindly RSVP on our website by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email We are also now accepting credit cards at the door for your convenience.

Missile Defense Against a North Korean Attack

Colleagues: Many of you have asked about the ballistic missile defense assets we have that could be deployed to intercept a North Korean attack. This from our friend Riki Ellison lays it out pretty clearly–probably more than you really wanted to know!

Would the system(s) work? Don’t know.


Here is a link to the piece with images: MDAA_In Place to Defeat It All


MDAA Alert:  

“In Place to Defeat It All”

April 12, 2013


Dear Members and Friends,

The ideal destruction and interception of a launched North Korean nuclear ballistic missile or missiles by current deployed United States missile defense systems is to take place in space with the precise use of kinetic energy from an intercepting vehicle at a high speed on a nuclear warhead traveling in space. Over 80 percent of a ballistic missile’s flight is in space which provides extensive time for multiple opportunities to intercept it. Identifying, tracking, and discriminating the warhead, over the course of its flight, is of absolute criticalness to the successful intercept of the ballistic missile.

In the due diligence of the U.S. Military to plan and prepare to defend against the worst case scenario of a launch of one or more of North Korea’s ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads, the United States has deployed a robust layered missile defense system to defeat and destroy these nuclear ballistic missiles in space with high confidence. The current deployed U.S. Missile Defense assets are as follows:

* The United States Defense Support Program constellation of satellites and its new GEO-1 satellite, in geosynchronous orbit, can instantly identify and track any and all ballistic missile launches anywhere on North Korean territory in any weather condition day or night and determine within seconds where those missiles are precisely targeted.

* The United States forward based AN/TPY-2 X-Band radars in Northern Japan and Guam in collaboration with its THAAD firing battery as well as an additional AN/TPY-2 X-Band radar to be deployed in Southern Japan, as announced by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on March 15, have the demonstrated proven capability to track, in the highest definition and fidelity of X-Band wavelengths, multiples of incoming ballistic missile warheads and provide exact tracking for firing solutions to each and every incoming warhead for precision interception during the warhead’s trajectory through  space and in the upper atmosphere as it renters. These forward based X-Band radars provide exact queuing as well as extending the battle space and range for the deployed United States and Japanese Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) ships loaded with SM-3 Block IA interceptors in the region. 

* There are 17 United States Aegis BMD ships deployed in the Pacific today and four Japanese Kongo Aegis BMD ships. Each of these ships have a minimum of 90 vertical launch tubes to hold SM-3 Block IA interceptors and each have an AN/SPY-1 phased array radar that can independently and collectively track and produce a firing solution to intercept  incoming ballistic missiles that fly within  hundreds of  miles around each ship. These Aegis BMD Ships have the capability to form a picket fence of connected sensors across the Pacific Ocean and can provide additional cueing for U.S. Homeland Defense as well as Allied Defense.

* The Aegis BMD ships, to include their AN/SPY-1 radars and SM-3 Block IA interceptors have had 24 successful intercept tests with the last being February 12th of this year. Some of these successful tests used the tracking information from the X-Band radars including the successful intercept of the falling satellite in February 20, 2008 to extend their ranges and battle space.

* The THAAD Battery in Guam has the proven capability to intercept ballistic missiles in lower space and in the Earth’s upper atmosphere as the warhead goes through reentry. The THAAD firing battery has six reusable launchers that can fire eight interceptors per launcher. THAAD with its X-Band radar and firing control system can defend an exponential greater area than a single Aegis BMD ship. THAAD has a successful test record of 10 for 10 since 2003 with the last successful intercept in October 25, 2012 in Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

* There is a constellation of two United States low earth orbit satellites called the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) that have provided tracking and firing solutions for both the Aegis BMD system and the THAAD system. This system was last successfully tested in February 12, 2013 with the successful Aegis SM-3 Block IA interceptor and in October 25, 2012 with the THAAD successful intercept test which included the Aegis and Patriot 3 missile defense systems.

* The Sea Based X-Band radar (SBX) now deployed in the Pacific Ocean, is the most powerful radar in the world today in regards to tracking and the discrimination of ballistic missiles and their warheads to provide firing solutions. The SBX has a range of thousands of miles and will provides the best sensing information of North Korean incoming ballistic missiles and their warheads for Hawaii, United States territories in the Pacific, and parts of United States mainland. The SBX provides this information primarily to the 26 Ground Based Interceptors (GBI) deployed in Alaska and the 4 GBIs in California but can also provide this information to the Aegis BMD ships in the region to enhance and extend their battle space. 

* The Upgraded Early Warning Radars in Shemya, Alaska in the far western Aleutian Islands, at Clear Air Force Station of Anderson, Alaska, and at Beale Air Force Base in California can provide tracking information to support firing information to those30 GBIs in Alaska and California in the defense of the North American Continent from North Korea. 

* The 30 GBIs are a combination of first generation and second generation kill vehicles. These GBIs can shoot multiple times at the same incoming ballistic missile over the course of that ballistic missiles flight in space thus increasing its reliability.  The first generation GBIs have had eight successful intercepts out of 15 tests. The last successful GBI test took place in December 5, 2008. The second generation GBI has not yet had a successful intercept test and had a successful non intercept test early this year on January 26th.    

It is abundantly clear that the United States military has a robust layered missile defense capability and capacity in place today with high confidence to destroy and deny nuclear North Korean ballistic missiles in flight.

It is also abundantly clear that more capacity and more missile defense testing will need to be done by the United States and its allies to remain confident with high reliability against and ahead of the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missile threats.

It is with outstanding respect and great appreciation to the past 30 years of the resolve by the United States of America in its development and deployment of missile defense, from President Ronald Reagan to President Barack Obama, to have a system that is in place today assuring with high confidence that we can defend our country and allies from a limited nuclear ballistic missile attack.



Riki Ellison

Chairman & FounderMissile

Defense Advocacy Alliance

Reflections by the last soldier back from “Nam”




Reflections by the last soldier back from “Nam”

By Tyrus W. Cobb


Forty years ago Monday the last American combat soldier left Viet Nam, following the dictates of the Paris Peace Accords signed earlier that year.

As the plane carrying the last of the our U.S. delegation overseeing the implementation of the Peace Agreement prepared to leave, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong representatives, part of the observer teams, were at Tan Son Nhut airfield outside Saigon to witness our departure.

Boarding the plane on April 1, 1973, I recalled a few days earlier a conversation one of my colleagues on the American delegation, Colonel Harry Summers, had with a North Vietnamese officer of the same rank.

“Colonel”, Summers caustically pointed out, “Not once did your North Vietnamese or Viet Cong troops ever defeat the U.S. on the battlefield.”

“That’s quite true”, the Colonel from Hanoi responded, “but it is also irrelevant”.

So it was. They stayed, we left, and the Saigon government struggled on for two years before collapsing on April 30, 1975, as the VC and North Vietnamese launched the final assault. The photos of the helicopters taking our personnel and Vietnamese friends off the roof of the Embassy are riveted in our minds.

When our C-141 transport aircraft landed in Alaska 40 years ago, I waited until everyone had raced off the plane, then jumped off and claimed that “I was the last soldier back from Viet Nam”. Probably the case.

For those of us who had served in “Nam”, the relief of the war being over was mixed with the feeling that if the enemy had not defeated us on the battlefield, we had certainly lost the political war and the struggle for the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people.

As a veteran of that conflict I am often asked if I thought the U.S. was right in engaging in that imbroglio. I answer that while I personally thought our intervention was the right decision, it may not have been the correct decision. That is, I believe that our support for the Government of South Vietnam in combating the invasion by North Vietnamese troops (NVA), and Hanoi’s support of the Viet-Cong (VC), was morally justified. I concede that the practitioners of Realpolitik have a point in arguing that our national interests might have been better served by pursuing balance of power politics in the region, playing off emerging Sino-Soviet and Sino-Vietnamese animosities.

I spent two tours in “Nam”, the first advising South Vietnamese forces (ARVN), and the second as an intelligence staff officer and later as a member of the U.S. delegation overseeing the 1973 ceasefire. In that capacity I served as the U.S. liaison officer to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, was the first American to meet with the “enemy” after the ceasefire, and the first to go to Hanoi (to start the implementation of the Peace agreement).

Vietnam Withdrawal Anniversary
AP. Vietnam: In a curious ending to a bizarre conflict, American troops board jets under the watchful eyes of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong observers in Saigon. (I think this is a photo of me with the NVA and VC observers watching as the nearly last US troops leave country. We left on the last plane two days later. Ty)

Like any American officer, I was frustrated by the South Vietnamese Army and Government. They constantly demonstrated an inability to work in unison, and were often corrupt as well as inefficient. Still, in the South there was a thriving private economy, a government that responded to a great extent to the wishes of the people, leaders who encouraged religious expression, and citizens who engaged in intense political discourse.

South Vietnam was far from a Jeffersonian democracy, but in contrast to the repressive Communist system in the North, it was a fledging participatory civic culture. I was struck, in going to Hanoi the day after the ceasefire (January 26, 1973), how mordant life there seemed, so regimented, emotionless, and authoritarian. While we Americans worked well with the NVA and the VC in the peace implementation, and were impressed by the discipline and order their troops exhibited, it was nonetheless a discomfiting contrast with the ebullience of life in the South.

Following reunification in 1975, the Communist government in Hanoi confiscated all private land, forced citizens into collectivized agricultural communes, instituted draconian “reeducation” policies, persecuted minorities, invaded their neighbors (Cambodia, 1978), and outlawed political opposition. The Communists isolated Vietnam from the world community (except for help from the USSR), and plunged the economy down to an abysmally low level. While the protesters marching against American intervention in Vietnam “won” when the U.S. withdrew and Vietnam was reunited, they lost when the Communists imposed a brutal regime and prohibited all political opposition

The disintegration of the Soviet Union led to cutbacks in assistance, and forced Vietnam to reassess its failed Socialist experiment. In the late 1980’s Hanoi instituted Western-style economic reforms that dramatically improved Vietnam’s business climate. Vietnam became one of the fastest growing economies, averaging 6-7% growth rates, inflation (300% in 1987!) was tamed, and foreign investment grew. The shift to a more market-oriented economy significantly improved the quality of life.

There is a supreme irony in all this. While the U.S. “lost” the war, it later won the peace by adroitly playing off the Sino-Soviet-Vietnam rivalry. Maybe there is a lesson there—yes, playing “balance of power” politics may be distasteful and require a certain amount of dexterity. But perhaps it might be a better approach than trying to change countries with authoritarian regimes, corrupt leaders, and religious fanaticism by massive military intervention and “nation building”.

–       Tyrus W. Cobb was the first American soldier to meet with the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong after the ceasefire was signed and the first to go to Hanoi to begin the release of our POWs and the implementation of the Peace Accords.