Former defense leaders writes to Obama on North Korean nuclear test

Plans by the Pentagon to beef up U.S. missile defense systems on the West Coast and an announcement Monday by the Air Force to launch another missile warning satellite indicate the White House may be listening to Las Vegan Troy Wade and other former national security leaders who sent President Barack Obama a letter after North Korea’s last nuclear test in February.

“Decision makers are beginning to recognize the problem is bigger than they thought,” Wade, a former Energy Department defense chief, said in a Monday phone call while traveling in Washington, D.C. “Certainly that letter and the North Korea nuclear test got a lot of attention.”

Wade and 19 other former defense and national security advisers sent Obama a letter 10 days after the North Korean nuclear test saying the United States shouldn’t drop its nuclear-deterrent guard.

They wrote that North Korea’s Feb. 12 underground detonation of a nuclear device — its third since 2006 — presents “both a danger and an opportunity.”

“The danger is obvious,” their letter reads. “The opportunity this ominous turn of events offers is the chance to reconsider your pursuit of the goal of ‘ridding the world of nuclear weapons.’ ”

The Feb. 22 letter said that such an agenda “will only result in the unilateral disarmament of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. That will make the world more dangerous, not less.”

The Feb. 12 nuclear test — proclaimed by Pyongyang and North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un — “showed that they had made some rather significant technology advance,” Wade said.

But in a Feb. 26 email, Wade noted that “the North Koreans can’t deter anyone with one or four or 10” nuclear weapons.

“They realize any use of one of their nuclear weapons on another country will bring swift retaliation from the U.S. and perhaps others,” he said. “So the only value to North Korea is to foster proliferation among other European and Asian countries in the hope that a major war will start from which they (North Korea) can benefit.”

As such, Wade said, “I believe the North Korean actions present a very dangerous situation to the world.”

On Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that by 2017, the U.S. military would add 14 missile interceptors to its cache of more than two dozen in place at Fort Greely, Alaska, and the four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. They are designed to blow up incoming warheads in flight.

Then on Monday, the Air Force and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin announced they are ready to launch the second Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous spacecraft today aboard an Atlas V rocket out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

“The value of nuclear weapons is a deterrent to others who would propose to do you harm,” Wade said.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.

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