President Donald Trump's tweeted message that military "solutions" to the North Korea nuclear crisis are now "locked and loaded" has further raised the tit-for-tat rhetoric in the escalating stand-off.
The Japanese government said today it "can never tolerate" provocations from North Korea after the country's military said it was finalising a plan to launch missiles towards Guam that would fly over Japan.
Luckily, the U.S. and Japan have tremendous missile defense capabilities, to include United States and Japanese guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis rader missile defense site on Japan, and finally a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in Guam.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of the gravity of the situation between the USA and North Korea, saying, "we're dealing with probably the most serious crisis involving a potential nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis". "There are several layers of ballistic missile defense".
"This is an experimental system - we could potentially miss or hit, we don't know for sure".
In South Korea, a recently deployed THAAD missile defense system would not be able to intercept a launch toward Guam but could quickly detect the launch on its radar.
Pollack says they are intended "to deter the North from any kind of potential actions".
If any of the four long-range missiles successfully made it through U.S. defense, Mount said, it would be a huge victory for the rogue state.
And he points to another sign that the U.S.is not moving toward war with North Korea: There have been no efforts to evacuate the at least 150,000 USA citizens living in South Korea.
Rather, Seoul wants to double the maximum payload to 1,000 kg or greater, powerful enough to target underground bunkers or nuclear sites within the North, the officials said. The Aegis destroyers might actually have a better shot than the Patriot missiles, but only by sailing dangerously close to North Korean waters.