Defending the United States: Revisiting National Missile Defense against North Korea

In this online seminar, we will discuss Jaganath Sankaran and Steve Fetter's paper "Defending the United States: Revisiting National Missile Defense against North Korea"

SpeakerJaganath Sankaran, Assistant Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Respondent: Andrew Futter, Professor in International Politics at the University of Leicester, UK.

Registration: To sign up for this online event, please register here. All participants will receive a Zoom invitation in advance.


North Korea has made significant strides in its attempt to acquire a strategic nuclear deterrent. In 2017, it tested intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and completed a series of nuclear test explosions. These may provide North Korea with the technical foundation to deploy a nuclear-armed ICBM capable of striking the United States. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile defense system is intended to deter North Korean nuclear coercion and, if deterrence fails, to defeat a limited North Korean attack. Despite two decades of dedicated and costly efforts, however, the GMD system remains unproven and unreliable. It has not demonstrated an ability to defeat the relatively simple and inexpensive countermeasures that North Korea can field. The GMD system has suffered persistent delays, substantial cost increases, and repeated program failures because of the politically motivated rush to deploy in the 1990s. But GMD and other U.S. missile defense efforts have provoked serious concerns in Russia and China, who fear it may threaten their nuclear deterrents. Diplomacy and deterrence may reassure Russia and China while constraining North Korea's nuclear program. An alternate airborne boost-phase intercept system may offer meaningful defense against North Korean missiles without threatening the Russian or Chinese deterrents.

The technical work performed for the article was also used in a report published by the American Physical Society (APS).  The report can be found here.

Speaker bio:

Jaganath Sankaran is an assistant professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Formerly a defense scientist with the Indian Missile R&D establishment, his current research focuses on missile defenses, space weapons, military net assessment, and arms control. He has held fellowships at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, and the RAND Corporation, and has served on study groups of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, examining missile defenses and strategic stability.

Respondent bio:

Professor Andrew Futter is Chair in International Politics at the University of Leicester, UK. He has written widely on nuclear weapons issues, and is currently leading a European Research Council-funded project examining whether the world is moving into a "Third Nuclear Age".

Published Mar. 7, 2022 9:24 AM - Last modified Mar. 7, 2022 9:36 AM