Diplomacy the Best Defense Against North Korean Missiles

By Alexandra Bell

Alexandra Bell is the Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation and the Council for a Livable World. From 2010 to 2017, she served as a political appointee at the U.S. Department of State, most recently as the Director for Strategic Outreach in the Office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. Before joining the Obama Administration, she was the Project Manager at the Ploughshares Fund and a Research Assistant for Nuclear Policy at the Center for American Progress.

Imagine the middle of nowhere Alaska. Got that in your head? Great. Now drive 2½  hours further into nowhere and you have arrived at Fort Greeley. I visited in the fall of 2015. It was cold out there—a wet, bitter cold.  It’s also slightly eerie. The absolutely enormous ravens all around the base don’t help with that. Looking across the vast, empty valley to the mountains in the distance, you would never imagine that hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of missile technology is buried just beneath the frozen ground.     

By the end of this year, Fort Greeley will be home to 40 ground-based missile defense interceptors. Four more are based down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  These missiles make up the U.S. Ground-Based Missile Defense (GMD) program, and their mission is to protect the U.S. homeland from limited intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attacks. Climbing down into one, you are immediately struck with the size of the missiles and the concept itself. The idea of hitting a missile traveling at face-melting speeds with another missile is, in the literal sense, awesome. 

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