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Smaller Pro-EU Parties Surge in European Elections; Centrists Lose Seats

Smaller Pro-EU Parties Surge in European Elections; Centrists Lose Seats

Smaller European parties saw a surge of support in continent-wide elections for the European Parliament in what politicians and analysts agree will likely be seen as the most consequential since 1979, when European Union voters first began casting ballots for the bloc’s legislature.

Early results Sunday suggested the 751-seat parliament will be more fragmented than ever before. Smaller parties, both euroskeptic and pro-EU ones, fared well at the expense of their more established and bigger center-right and center-left rivals.

Pro-EU Liberals and Greens will hold the balance of power in the new parliament, which will sit for five years. Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens group, said: “To make a stable majority in this parliament, the Greens are now indispensable.”

The rise of new parties appears to have smashed the duopoly of control of the parliament traditionally enjoyed by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

National populist parties

As the results came in, nationalist populists were on course to win just under a quarter of the seats in the parliament, but they had set their sights on snatching a third of them. In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche was defeated, coming in second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally. Le Pen welcomed the win, saying it had delivered a serious blow to the authority of the French president.

In Italy, too, nationalist populists led by Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister, made important gains. And eurosceptic hard-right parties topped the polls in Britain, Poland and Hungary.

But the bigger takeaway from the election was how well pro-EU Greens and Liberals did. In several countries Green parties saw their support jump from five years ago. In Germany, the Greens made major gains at the expense of country’s left-wing Social Democrats, making a historic breakthrough by securing more than 20% of the vote.

Carsten Schneider, a German Social Democrats lawmaker, acknowledged it was a “bitter result, a defeat for us.”

“I think the main issue was climate change and we didn’t succeed in putting that front and center, alongside the big social issues,” he added.

In Ireland, too, Greens were celebrating, clinching three of Ireland’s 13 seats. The sudden crest in support for the Greens comes amid rising anxiety across Europe over the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Eric Varadkar tweeted: “I want to congratulate the Greens on a very good election. It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action — and we’ve got that message.”

Voters in 21 countries went to the polls Sunday. In seven other nations, including Britain, voters cast their ballots last week with the results being held back until all countries had completed the balloting.

Bloc gaining power

The European Parliament has become more powerful in recent years — for much of its existence it was just a talking shop (an unproductive bureaucratic agency). Now it helps pick the president of the European Commission and contributes to the shaping of trade and digital regulations. Seats are allocated under a form of proportional representation.

For years, the center-right EPP and the center-left S&D, both pro-EU parties, have together commanded an absolute majority in the parliament and its leaders have more often than not been able to settle disagreements in behind-the-scenes meetings.

In Britain, in an election that wasn’t meant to have been — the country was due to have left the EU by now — the newly formed Brexit Party of Nigel Farage trounced both of Britain’s two main established parties, the Conservatives and Labour, signaling it will likely be a threat to the pair in a general election, which many observers think will have to be called this year.

Both the Conservatives and Labour had been braced for a backlash from voters over Brexit, with the Brexit Party and pro-EU Liberal Democrats expected to do well. The predictions turned out to be right, with the ruling Conservatives recording their worst election performance in their history. The turnout in Britain was higher than previous European polls — as it was across all of the bloc where it averaged 50%, the highest rate since 1994.

British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan blamed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s reluctance to resign from office for the defeat. On Twitter, he said: “Had the PM announced her resignation even 24 hours earlier, something might have been salvaged.”

Still a strong pro-EU majority

The reduction in the power of establishment parties could potentially make it more difficult for the bloc to agree on collective action when it comes to economic, trade and foreign policies, but EU officials were breathing a sigh of relief Sunday night when it became clear there would still be a strong pro-EU majority in the parliament.

The center-right EPP will likely hold on to 173 seats in the EU parliament, down from 221 in 2014, while the Socialist group will fall from 191 to 147 seats. The Liberals were expected to rise from 67 seats to more than 100; the Greens increased from 50 to 71.

Socialists looked set to top the poll in Spain. And traditional left parties fared better than had been predicted in Italy and the Netherlands.

 

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Smaller Pro-EU Parties Surge in European Elections; Centrists Lose Seats

Smaller European parties saw a surge of support in continent-wide elections for the European Parliament in what politicians and analysts agree will likely be seen as the most consequential since 1979, when European Union voters first began casting ballots for the bloc’s legislature.

Early results Sunday suggested the 751-seat parliament will be more fragmented than ever before. Smaller parties, both euroskeptic and pro-EU ones, fared well at the expense of their more established and bigger center-right and center-left rivals.

Pro-EU Liberals and Greens will hold the balance of power in the new parliament, which will sit for five years. Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens group, said: “To make a stable majority in this parliament, the Greens are now indispensable.”

The rise of new parties appears to have smashed the duopoly of control of the parliament traditionally enjoyed by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

National populist parties

As the results came in, nationalist populists were on course to win just under a quarter of the seats in the parliament, but they had set their sights on snatching a third of them. In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche was defeated, coming in second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally. Le Pen welcomed the win, saying it had delivered a serious blow to the authority of the French president.

In Italy, too, nationalist populists led by Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister, made important gains. And eurosceptic hard-right parties topped the polls in Britain, Poland and Hungary.

But the bigger takeaway from the election was how well pro-EU Greens and Liberals did. In several countries Green parties saw their support jump from five years ago. In Germany, the Greens made major gains at the expense of country’s left-wing Social Democrats, making a historic breakthrough by securing more than 20% of the vote.

Carsten Schneider, a German Social Democrats lawmaker, acknowledged it was a “bitter result, a defeat for us.”

“I think the main issue was climate change and we didn’t succeed in putting that front and center, alongside the big social issues,” he added.

In Ireland, too, Greens were celebrating, clinching three of Ireland’s 13 seats. The sudden crest in support for the Greens comes amid rising anxiety across Europe over the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Eric Varadkar tweeted: “I want to congratulate the Greens on a very good election. It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action — and we’ve got that message.”

Voters in 21 countries went to the polls Sunday. In seven other nations, including Britain, voters cast their ballots last week with the results being held back until all countries had completed the balloting.

Bloc gaining power

The European Parliament has become more powerful in recent years — for much of its existence it was just a talking shop (an unproductive bureaucratic agency). Now it helps pick the president of the European Commission and contributes to the shaping of trade and digital regulations. Seats are allocated under a form of proportional representation.

For years, the center-right EPP and the center-left S&D, both pro-EU parties, have together commanded an absolute majority in the parliament and its leaders have more often than not been able to settle disagreements in behind-the-scenes meetings.

In Britain, in an election that wasn’t meant to have been — the country was due to have left the EU by now — the newly formed Brexit Party of Nigel Farage trounced both of Britain’s two main established parties, the Conservatives and Labour, signaling it will likely be a threat to the pair in a general election, which many observers think will have to be called this year.

Both the Conservatives and Labour had been braced for a backlash from voters over Brexit, with the Brexit Party and pro-EU Liberal Democrats expected to do well. The predictions turned out to be right, with the ruling Conservatives recording their worst election performance in their history. The turnout in Britain was higher than previous European polls — as it was across all of the bloc where it averaged 50%, the highest rate since 1994.

British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan blamed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s reluctance to resign from office for the defeat. On Twitter, he said: “Had the PM announced her resignation even 24 hours earlier, something might have been salvaged.”

Still a strong pro-EU majority

The reduction in the power of establishment parties could potentially make it more difficult for the bloc to agree on collective action when it comes to economic, trade and foreign policies, but EU officials were breathing a sigh of relief Sunday night when it became clear there would still be a strong pro-EU majority in the parliament.

The center-right EPP will likely hold on to 173 seats in the EU parliament, down from 221 in 2014, while the Socialist group will fall from 191 to 147 seats. The Liberals were expected to rise from 67 seats to more than 100; the Greens increased from 50 to 71.

Socialists looked set to top the poll in Spain. And traditional left parties fared better than had been predicted in Italy and the Netherlands.

 

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Virtual Reality Offers Glimpse of Rome’s Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus Experience, opened in Rome this week and offers visitors the chance to relive the ancient splendors of chariot racing in the Imperial period of Rome through augmented and virtual reality. The innovative project implements interactive display technologies never before used in such a large outdoor area.

“Now you find yourself in front of the Arch of Titus, which was possibly built in the place of a more ancient arch and dedicated in the year 81 After Christ by the Roman Senate and people to Emperor Flavius”.

This is just an example of what modern-day visitors will be listening to in their headsets, while at the same time through special visors see a virtual rendering of the majestic 20-meter Arch of Titus in Rome’s Circus Maximus.

Thanks to a ground-breaking project using interactive display technology never before used in such an extended outdoor area, visitors are able to re-live the life in one of Rome’s undisputed landmarks.

Visitors immerse themselves in history for with overlapping images from the past and those of the reality of today. They are able to visualize architectural and landscape reconstructions of what life was like during all of the historical stages of the Circus Maximus.

They can see the ancient Murcia Valley enriched with buildings and walk around in the Circus among the shops of the time. They can visualize the Circus during Imperial times, the Middle Ages and in a more modern age.

The full itinerary involves eight stops including: the valley and the origins of the Circus, the Circus from Julius Caesar to Trajan, the Circus during the Imperial age, the cavea or tiered seating arena, the Arch of Titus, the tabernae or shops, the Circus during the Middle Ages and modern age, and lastly “A Day at the Circus” for an experience of the exciting chariot race of the quadrigas with the screams of incitement of the public and the overturning of wagons.

Visitors are able to enjoy similar experiences in Rome at the Baths of Caracalla, the Ara Pacis and the Domus Aurea.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Virtual Reality Offers Glimpse of Rome’s Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus Experience, opened in Rome this week and offers visitors the chance to relive the ancient splendors of chariot racing in the Imperial period of Rome through augmented and virtual reality. The innovative project implements interactive display technologies never before used in such a large outdoor area.

“Now you find yourself in front of the Arch of Titus, which was possibly built in the place of a more ancient arch and dedicated in the year 81 After Christ by the Roman Senate and people to Emperor Flavius”.

This is just an example of what modern-day visitors will be listening to in their headsets, while at the same time through special visors see a virtual rendering of the majestic 20-meter Arch of Titus in Rome’s Circus Maximus.

Thanks to a ground-breaking project using interactive display technology never before used in such an extended outdoor area, visitors are able to re-live the life in one of Rome’s undisputed landmarks.

Visitors immerse themselves in history for with overlapping images from the past and those of the reality of today. They are able to visualize architectural and landscape reconstructions of what life was like during all of the historical stages of the Circus Maximus.

They can see the ancient Murcia Valley enriched with buildings and walk around in the Circus among the shops of the time. They can visualize the Circus during Imperial times, the Middle Ages and in a more modern age.

The full itinerary involves eight stops including: the valley and the origins of the Circus, the Circus from Julius Caesar to Trajan, the Circus during the Imperial age, the cavea or tiered seating arena, the Arch of Titus, the tabernae or shops, the Circus during the Middle Ages and modern age, and lastly “A Day at the Circus” for an experience of the exciting chariot race of the quadrigas with the screams of incitement of the public and the overturning of wagons.

Visitors are able to enjoy similar experiences in Rome at the Baths of Caracalla, the Ara Pacis and the Domus Aurea.

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Коломойський вважає, що Україні слід оголосити дефолт

Український олігарх Ігор Коломойський вважає, що Україні слід оголосити дефолт. Про це він заявив у інтерв’ю видання Financial Times.

На думку Коломойського, Україні слід наслідувати приклад Греції, яка у 2015 році стала першою розвиненою країною, що не змогла повернути кредит МВФ, хоча відмова від співпраці була тимчасовою, пише газета. Коломойський переконаний, що Києву не слід боятися дефолту. Він зазначив, що Аргентина багато разів зазнавала дефолту, але її борги були реструктуровані і у країни «все нормально».  

Олігарх зазначив, що якщо президент Володимир Зеленський буде прислухатися до Заходу, то його чекають такі ж низькі рейтинги, як у екс-президента Петра Порошенка.

Місія Міжнародного валютного фонду розпочала роботу в Україні 21 травня. Представник МВФ в Україні Йоста Люнгман заявляв, що місія перебуватиме в Україні два тижні й оцінюватиме виконання поточної програми співпраці з фондом.

Читайте також: Відставка уряду Гройсмана може призвести до втрати Україною траншу МВФ (огляд преси)

Вранці 22 травня агентство «Українські новини» написало, що місія МВФ «сьогодні чи завтра повертається до Вашингтона» у зв’язку з рішенням розпустити парламент та через певні кадрові призначення в Адміністрації президента.

Водночас у прес-службі МВФ Радіо Свобода запевнили, що експерти Міжнародного валютного фонду «продовжують зустрічі з представниками влади України».

Прес-служба президента України повідомила, що Володимир Зеленський планує зустрітися з представниками Міжнародного валютного фонду наступного тижня.

Читайте також: П’ять економічних викликів для нового президента

18 грудня 2018 року посол України у США Валерій Чалий повідомив, що в штаб-квартирі Міжнародного валютного фонду у Вашингтоні затвердили виділення Україні фінансової підтримки для продовження реалізації важливих реформ.

Обсяг нової програми – 3,9 мільярда доларів. Згідно з повідомленням, вона має стати основою для економічної політики уряду в 2019 році – передбачається, що ця політика буде зосереджена на зниженні інфляції та реформах оподаткування, фінансового і енергетичного секторів.

21 грудня Україна отримала перший транш за новою програмою співпраці з Міжнародним валютним фондом обсягом близько 1,4 мільярда доларів.

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Коломойський вважає, що Україні слід оголосити дефолт

Український олігарх Ігор Коломойський вважає, що Україні слід оголосити дефолт. Про це він заявив у інтерв’ю видання Financial Times.

На думку Коломойського, Україні слід наслідувати приклад Греції, яка у 2015 році стала першою розвиненою країною, що не змогла повернути кредит МВФ, хоча відмова від співпраці була тимчасовою, пише газета. Коломойський переконаний, що Києву не слід боятися дефолту. Він зазначив, що Аргентина багато разів зазнавала дефолту, але її борги були реструктуровані і у країни «все нормально».  

Олігарх зазначив, що якщо президент Володимир Зеленський буде прислухатися до Заходу, то його чекають такі ж низькі рейтинги, як у екс-президента Петра Порошенка.

Місія Міжнародного валютного фонду розпочала роботу в Україні 21 травня. Представник МВФ в Україні Йоста Люнгман заявляв, що місія перебуватиме в Україні два тижні й оцінюватиме виконання поточної програми співпраці з фондом.

Читайте також: Відставка уряду Гройсмана може призвести до втрати Україною траншу МВФ (огляд преси)

Вранці 22 травня агентство «Українські новини» написало, що місія МВФ «сьогодні чи завтра повертається до Вашингтона» у зв’язку з рішенням розпустити парламент та через певні кадрові призначення в Адміністрації президента.

Водночас у прес-службі МВФ Радіо Свобода запевнили, що експерти Міжнародного валютного фонду «продовжують зустрічі з представниками влади України».

Прес-служба президента України повідомила, що Володимир Зеленський планує зустрітися з представниками Міжнародного валютного фонду наступного тижня.

Читайте також: П’ять економічних викликів для нового президента

18 грудня 2018 року посол України у США Валерій Чалий повідомив, що в штаб-квартирі Міжнародного валютного фонду у Вашингтоні затвердили виділення Україні фінансової підтримки для продовження реалізації важливих реформ.

Обсяг нової програми – 3,9 мільярда доларів. Згідно з повідомленням, вона має стати основою для економічної політики уряду в 2019 році – передбачається, що ця політика буде зосереджена на зниженні інфляції та реформах оподаткування, фінансового і енергетичного секторів.

21 грудня Україна отримала перший транш за новою програмою співпраці з Міжнародним валютним фондом обсягом близько 1,4 мільярда доларів.

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Experts: Combine US, S. Korean Missile Systems to Boost Defense vs. North

Kim Dong-hyun of the VOA Korean Service contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — South Korea should integrate its missile defense system with that of the U.S. to maximize the combined capabilities to counter a potential incoming flight of North Korea’s missiles across the border, experts said in the wake of Pyongyang’s two missile launches in early May.

South Korea’s missile defense system and the U.S. antimissile defense system deployed in South Korea are coordinated but operate independently.

“The whole system would work better if it was fully integrated, if it was a completely combined operation,” said Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a professor at Angelo State University in Texas.

​Why not integrate systems?

The lack of integration is rooted in regional history. The South Korean government, whether it was conservative or liberal, never merged its system with the U.S. system for political reasons, in part, because integrating it would mean joining the U.S. missile defense alliance in the region that includes Japan, South Korea’s colonial adversary toward which South Korea’s public sentiment has been historically antagonistic, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. research center.

Streamlining the command and control of the two missile defense systems with autonomous command and control would cut the time needed to analyze data, share information, and cue the proper system for targeting and intercepting an incoming missile, according to David Maxwell, a former U.S. Special Forces colonel and current fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

On May 17, the Pentagon announced the U.S. had approved a $314 million sale of air defense missiles to South Korea.

South Korea’s missile defense system, termed the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), includes Aegis and Patriot systems, and is designed to protect South Korea from missiles that fly at different altitudes and distance by detecting, tracking and intercepting incoming missiles in the air. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which currently falls under the U.S. missile defense system, is also deployed in South Korea.

Aegis, a sea-based missile defense system, and THAAD are area defense weapons that have the capabilities to defend wide areas against missiles that fly high altitudes. And, the Patriot system, known as pointed defense weapons, can intercept missiles directed against smaller areas such as air base, according to Maxwell.

​No perfect defense

But they don’t provide a perfect defense that prevents missiles from getting through, he added.

“There’s no impenetrable shield,” Maxwell said. “There [is] always going to be a gap, a seam, a weakness, that the enemy is always trying to exploit and defenders are always trying to fix and find a better way. This is constantly a game of where capabilities continue to evolve.”

This was part of what was happening when North Korea tested a new missile on May 4 that is considered to be similar to the Russian Iskander, a nuclear-capable missile that flies lower than the short-range ballistic missiles North Korea tested before.

“A ballistic missile leaves the earth’s atmosphere and glides back down,” Bechtol said. “This [test] missile does not, as far as I can tell, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. It operates more like a cruise missile than a ballistic missile.”

A cruise missile flies on a relatively straight line and at a lower altitude than a ballistic missile, which arcs up before curving down toward a target.

​Russian-like missile poses challenges

Experts said if the new missile is modeled after the Iskander, it could pose multiple challenges and could exploit gaps in the existing missile-defense coverage in South Korea. 

The new missile’s “flattened flight path” toward a target “makes it difficult to intercept” with current defense systems, said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The North Korean version of the Iskander does not fly higher than 50 kilometers and can travel a ground distance as far as 280 kilometers, according to Elleman.

But THAAD and the Aegis SM-3 interceptor operate at an altitude above 50 kilometers, and the Patriot system’s effective intercepting range is at an altitude of about 25 to 30 kilometers with the Patriot variant PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor extending its flight to an altitude of about 40 kilometers.

That leaves “a gap in interceptor coverage” of at least 10 kilometers between the missile defense systems that operate at roughly 40 to 50 kilometers, said Ellemen. “The Iskander spends most of its flight path in this gap, making it difficult to intercept.”

The Iskander can fly at a high speed, presenting another challenge for the current missile defense system.

Bennett said, “The Iskander flies perhaps 20-25 percent faster than the Scud,” a series of tactical ballistic missiles that could travel five times the speed of sound, potentially capable of reaching South Korea in about five minutes, Bennett said.

“THAAD and the SM-3 on the Aegis [equipped] ships should be able to handle this speed. [But] the Iskander flies low, [a] potential challenge for THAAD and the SM-3,” he added.

Most accurate North Korean missile

The Iskander can be mounted on mobile launch platforms, meaning it can be moved and fired quickly.

“It’s a solid fuel missile,” Bechtol said, explaining that the fuel can be loaded ahead of launch “and moved much more quickly than liquid-fuel missiles.” The latter need fueling just before launch.

The Iskander’s maneuverability also makes it difficult for THAAD, Aegis SM-3, and the Patriot system to intercept.

“The Iskander has fins mounted at the back of the missile, which allow it to maneuver during the entire flight,” Ellemen explained. “This makes it much more difficult to predict an intercept location and launches the interceptor on the optimal path for an engagement resulting in destruction of the threat.”

Bechtol said, “It would be the most accurate missile the North Koreans have ever had, so accurate that they could actually fire out … [and] target barracks, flight lines for aircraft, headquarter buildings.”

With the missile test, “the North Koreans are showing us that they have a missile [with which] they can accurately target Osan Air Base or Camp Humphreys in a very real, in a very dangerous way,” Bechtol said, citing American installations in South Korea.

“They were able to keep in accordance with the agreement they made with [President Donald] Trump, and at the same time, threaten the United States and South Korea in a very compelling way,” he added.

When the Pyongyang government began talks with Washington last year, it pledged to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests.

​Complicated political situation

Merging South Korean and U.S. missile defense systems could be hampered by the political situation in South Korea, according to Maxwell. Public attitudes have changed little since 2017, when hundreds of South Korean citizens protested the installation of THAAD at a U.S. military south of Seoul.

“I just don’t see the political will for that in South Korea among majority of the people or the current rule and government,” Maxwell said.

Bennett said a North Korean missile that slipped under defense systems could devastate the peninsula, depending on the type of warhead it carried, “… which in theory could be conventional, nuclear or chemical,” he said. “So the defense would turn to passive defense: protecting people in shelters with masks and protective clothing.”

According to Maxwell, a variant of the Patriot interceptor, the PACT 3 Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) under the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea is better able “to defeat tactical ballistic missiles and aircraft and cruise missiles” and could potentially intercept the new kind of missile North Korea tested.

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Experts: Combine US, S. Korean Missile Systems to Boost Defense vs. North

Kim Dong-hyun of the VOA Korean Service contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — South Korea should integrate its missile defense system with that of the U.S. to maximize the combined capabilities to counter a potential incoming flight of North Korea’s missiles across the border, experts said in the wake of Pyongyang’s two missile launches in early May.

South Korea’s missile defense system and the U.S. antimissile defense system deployed in South Korea are coordinated but operate independently.

“The whole system would work better if it was fully integrated, if it was a completely combined operation,” said Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a professor at Angelo State University in Texas.

​Why not integrate systems?

The lack of integration is rooted in regional history. The South Korean government, whether it was conservative or liberal, never merged its system with the U.S. system for political reasons, in part, because integrating it would mean joining the U.S. missile defense alliance in the region that includes Japan, South Korea’s colonial adversary toward which South Korea’s public sentiment has been historically antagonistic, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. research center.

Streamlining the command and control of the two missile defense systems with autonomous command and control would cut the time needed to analyze data, share information, and cue the proper system for targeting and intercepting an incoming missile, according to David Maxwell, a former U.S. Special Forces colonel and current fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

On May 17, the Pentagon announced the U.S. had approved a $314 million sale of air defense missiles to South Korea.

South Korea’s missile defense system, termed the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), includes Aegis and Patriot systems, and is designed to protect South Korea from missiles that fly at different altitudes and distance by detecting, tracking and intercepting incoming missiles in the air. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which currently falls under the U.S. missile defense system, is also deployed in South Korea.

Aegis, a sea-based missile defense system, and THAAD are area defense weapons that have the capabilities to defend wide areas against missiles that fly high altitudes. And, the Patriot system, known as pointed defense weapons, can intercept missiles directed against smaller areas such as air base, according to Maxwell.

​No perfect defense

But they don’t provide a perfect defense that prevents missiles from getting through, he added.

“There’s no impenetrable shield,” Maxwell said. “There [is] always going to be a gap, a seam, a weakness, that the enemy is always trying to exploit and defenders are always trying to fix and find a better way. This is constantly a game of where capabilities continue to evolve.”

This was part of what was happening when North Korea tested a new missile on May 4 that is considered to be similar to the Russian Iskander, a nuclear-capable missile that flies lower than the short-range ballistic missiles North Korea tested before.

“A ballistic missile leaves the earth’s atmosphere and glides back down,” Bechtol said. “This [test] missile does not, as far as I can tell, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. It operates more like a cruise missile than a ballistic missile.”

A cruise missile flies on a relatively straight line and at a lower altitude than a ballistic missile, which arcs up before curving down toward a target.

​Russian-like missile poses challenges

Experts said if the new missile is modeled after the Iskander, it could pose multiple challenges and could exploit gaps in the existing missile-defense coverage in South Korea. 

The new missile’s “flattened flight path” toward a target “makes it difficult to intercept” with current defense systems, said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The North Korean version of the Iskander does not fly higher than 50 kilometers and can travel a ground distance as far as 280 kilometers, according to Elleman.

But THAAD and the Aegis SM-3 interceptor operate at an altitude above 50 kilometers, and the Patriot system’s effective intercepting range is at an altitude of about 25 to 30 kilometers with the Patriot variant PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor extending its flight to an altitude of about 40 kilometers.

That leaves “a gap in interceptor coverage” of at least 10 kilometers between the missile defense systems that operate at roughly 40 to 50 kilometers, said Ellemen. “The Iskander spends most of its flight path in this gap, making it difficult to intercept.”

The Iskander can fly at a high speed, presenting another challenge for the current missile defense system.

Bennett said, “The Iskander flies perhaps 20-25 percent faster than the Scud,” a series of tactical ballistic missiles that could travel five times the speed of sound, potentially capable of reaching South Korea in about five minutes, Bennett said.

“THAAD and the SM-3 on the Aegis [equipped] ships should be able to handle this speed. [But] the Iskander flies low, [a] potential challenge for THAAD and the SM-3,” he added.

Most accurate North Korean missile

The Iskander can be mounted on mobile launch platforms, meaning it can be moved and fired quickly.

“It’s a solid fuel missile,” Bechtol said, explaining that the fuel can be loaded ahead of launch “and moved much more quickly than liquid-fuel missiles.” The latter need fueling just before launch.

The Iskander’s maneuverability also makes it difficult for THAAD, Aegis SM-3, and the Patriot system to intercept.

“The Iskander has fins mounted at the back of the missile, which allow it to maneuver during the entire flight,” Ellemen explained. “This makes it much more difficult to predict an intercept location and launches the interceptor on the optimal path for an engagement resulting in destruction of the threat.”

Bechtol said, “It would be the most accurate missile the North Koreans have ever had, so accurate that they could actually fire out … [and] target barracks, flight lines for aircraft, headquarter buildings.”

With the missile test, “the North Koreans are showing us that they have a missile [with which] they can accurately target Osan Air Base or Camp Humphreys in a very real, in a very dangerous way,” Bechtol said, citing American installations in South Korea.

“They were able to keep in accordance with the agreement they made with [President Donald] Trump, and at the same time, threaten the United States and South Korea in a very compelling way,” he added.

When the Pyongyang government began talks with Washington last year, it pledged to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests.

​Complicated political situation

Merging South Korean and U.S. missile defense systems could be hampered by the political situation in South Korea, according to Maxwell. Public attitudes have changed little since 2017, when hundreds of South Korean citizens protested the installation of THAAD at a U.S. military south of Seoul.

“I just don’t see the political will for that in South Korea among majority of the people or the current rule and government,” Maxwell said.

Bennett said a North Korean missile that slipped under defense systems could devastate the peninsula, depending on the type of warhead it carried, “… which in theory could be conventional, nuclear or chemical,” he said. “So the defense would turn to passive defense: protecting people in shelters with masks and protective clothing.”

According to Maxwell, a variant of the Patriot interceptor, the PACT 3 Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) under the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea is better able “to defeat tactical ballistic missiles and aircraft and cruise missiles” and could potentially intercept the new kind of missile North Korea tested.

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