Terrie's Take 907 (Tourism Edition) - Using Missiles, Will Kim Jong-Un Gatecrash the Tokyo Olympics?

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Jul 30 23:36:36 JST 2017

* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S (TOURISM) TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie 
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, July 30 2017, Issue No. 907

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+++ Using Missiles, Will Kim Jong-Un Gatecrash the Tokyo Olympics?

The last couple of months have been good ones for North Korea, in that 
its leader Kim Jong-Un has correctly read the reactions of the region's 
great powers. Given that he is crazy like a fox it's hard to say how he 
thinks things will eventually play out, but for the time being he has 
everyone's attention. With this latest Intercontinental Ballistic 
Missile (ICBM) test, he is raising the stakes and going from being an 
irrelevant annoyance to the U.S. who was only capable of hitting parts 
of Japan, to now being a major strategic threat. Donald Trump has 
already said that he would not allow North Korea to gain nuclear-capable 
ICBMs, but he may have to change his mind once he properly understands 
the options.

Earlier this week a San Francisco Chronicle stated, lifting from a 
Robert Oppenheimer quote some years ago, "...the current situation is 
like putting two scorpions in a bottle" - meaning a belligerent Kim and 
an aggressive Trump, both looking for a public diversion. Less 
fortunately for those of us here in Japan, the Chronicle then goes on to 
say that, rather than any preemptive attack by North Korea on 
California, it's more likely to target Japan or South Korea..." Hmmm, 
this kind of media speculation is not exactly conducive to Japan Inbound 
tourism, especially if the war of words escalates.

Indeed, for the first time ever, several months ago (in April, 2017) we 
had a travel agency client ask us if the North Korean situation is 
anything that they should be worried about. They had been watching news 
reports of Trump saying that he was sending an "Armada" to Korean 
waters, to send a "powerful signal to North Korea". Much to the 
embarrassment of those managing allied relations in this area, it turned 
out that Trump had his geography mixed up and the USS Carl Vinson was 
actually 3,500 miles away in the Indian Ocean doing exercises with the 
Australians. The episode was mocked internationally and may be one more 
reason why this time around Trump may seek a more substantive response.

So what kind of substantive response might that be and what does it mean 
to those of us in Japan? The Atlantic magazine posted a very thorough 
analysis of what options are open to Trump. These basically range from a 
surprise attack wiping out the military capability of North Korea, with 
substantial collateral damage to South Korea and Japan as Kim's forces 
unleash the many chemical weapons stockpiled all over the country, 
through to doing nothing. In between, the Atlantic offered two more 
options: a limited attack to serve as a warning to Kim, a highly risky 
strategy if you ask me, and assassinating him. The article is a long but 
interesting read.

http://theatln.tc/2viwuxG [Atlantic analysis]

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But what strikes me about all of these options is how put both South 
Korea and Japan in harm's way, and particularly disturbing is the fact 
that if Kim did target Japan his forces would focus on American bases 
across the country first, meaning that most major entry points to  Japan 
would be hit.

http://bit.ly/2uKckej [Known U.S. armed forces bases locations in Japan]

I'm not expecting Kim to risk Armageddon and his family legacy, and in 
the long run Trump will probably chose to follow the same path as Obama 
and Bush before him, which is to ignore the posturing and the threat. 
However, there is no doubt that Kim is gaining the ability to shake the 
tree whenever he feels like, and will probably be tempted to do so. The 
most obvious opportunity will be the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. If we were 
Kim, making some threats prior to the Olympics would cause Tokyo 
incalculable financial and political damage. So, apart from gaining some 
enjoyment watching the Japanese squirm, it would be a great way for him 
to extract billions in protection payments.

As psychologists well know, it's the fear of a threat more than the 
threat itself which causes extreme reactions. And interestingly, recent 
research has found that humans become most anxious about novel (newly 
experienced) threats in particular. Earthquakes? Well Japan has them all 
the time, so while they are dangerous, everyone knows that the Japanese 
are great structural engineers and have mitigated that threat 
sufficiently that 27m foreign tourists will still travel here this year. 
Radiation on the other hand, was in 2011 rather novel, and given that it 
is an invisible killer and easily spread by the weather, it was the 
major international scare story that year.

For this reason, of course, in 2012 Japan had the biggest drop in 
inbound tourists in 62 years.

U.S. media speculation about nuclear and VX gas threats from North Korea 
may not find much credence here in Japan, although such news is 
reported, and most Japanese trust in Fate enough to get on with their 
lives. What else can they do? They live here. But for others in SE Asia 
and China there is a sensitivity to perceived threats that directs the 
flow of travel significantly. We saw this during the avian flu (SARS) 
crisis in 2003 and then with Fukushima in 2011. The foreign media harped 
on about the threat, levels of alarm in Asia quickly rose, and people 
simply cancelled their trips.

What is the solution? Under normal circumstances I think that the 
government would prefer to try and quietly bribe Kim to leave the 
country alone while working on more effective defensive measures. For 
example, allowing cash transfers from Pachinko parlors to resume. 
However, since Japan is also greatly influenced by U.S. military 
thinking, and right now Trump and his team are driving that thinking, 
there seems to be a shift in stance towards taking more direct action. 
That's scary to say the least. Luckily the media in Asia haven't latched 
on to this yet.

There is one other country in the world that is already threatened by 
missiles every day and yet which is able to maintain a semi-normal 
existence. That country is Israel. Their solution was to create the Iron 
Dome missile shield, which although not perfect is capable of shooting 
down 90% of incoming missiles to a range of 70km, and at a cost of 
"just" US$100,000 per countermeasure launch (requires two missiles). Of 
course an ICBM is much harder than a home-made missile to bring down, 
and it needs much greater sophistication in terms of both detection and 
shoot-down. Ideally an ICBM needs to be detected shortly after launch 
and to be intercepted at its slowest point, just as it passes its 
perigee. There are currently four systems would be thrown at the ICBM to 
destroy, these being THAAD (used in South Korea), Patriot PAC-3 (used 
here), Aegis (used by the U.S. and Japanese navies), and GMD.

Of these, only the GMD system is designed specifically to intercept 
ICBMs. This US$40bn system has been plagued with patchy test results, 
but the U.S. military finally conducted a very convincing kill test in 
March this year, which shows that GMD may be capable after all.

In any case, detection is the first part of the solution, and Japan is 
already quite capable of putting up geo-stationary satellites, having 
launched their first geo-stationary weather satellite in 1978. In 
January of this year (2017) they launched their first dedicated military 
satellite, and while the main emphasis of that unit was communications, 
I'm pretty sure onboard missile detection focusing on North Korea would 
have been part of the specification.

Given that North Korea has decided to ante up the stakes, Japan doesn't 
really seem to have that many options after all. Therefore, I would not 
be surprised to see the Abe government invest massively in some kind of 
protective missile dome for Japan. Then if Kim did decide to threaten 
the country nearer the Olympics so as to squeeze out some cash, the 
Japanese government could then reveal their hand and conduct missile 
shield tests to show it was capable of protecting itself. In doing so, 
they would also go a long way in reassuring skittish visitors that the 
country is safe enough to visit.

But it would certainly be a lot cheaper to simply bow down and pray to 
the gods a bit harder - so I wouldn't rule that out either. What would 
they pray for? That Kim falls ill from heart disease, that President 
Trump decides discretion is the best part of valor, and that the 
tourists keep coming in greater numbers.

...The information janitors/

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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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