Constance Baroudos, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank, sees great deterrent value in the Minuteman test launches.
“Deterrence basically doesn’t work unless the threat is deemed credible,” she said. “So every time we test ICBMs, we demonstrate not only that the weapons work but also that they are ready to be launched. When those tests are conducted, the Russians, the Chinese and other international actors are watching, and they send a message to a potential aggressor that they not do anything they would regret.”
Testing aging missiles is good policy, for all the reasons stated, except for deterrent value against North Korea.
For North Korea to strike the US with nukes it will have to be with the blessings of China or without the blessings of China. If North Korea strikes without the blessings of China, implicit or explicit, it is game-over.
Its first strike will be its last strike, because, if Japan doesn’t strike North Korea after such a launch, South Korea would have to strike or join North Korea.
Japan would have to strike North Korea, because the chance of both koreas uniting would be something they would have to considering as happening, and their fight against both would give the advantage to Korea.
But either way, once North Korea uses its nukes, it is game over for North Korea and their present administration.
But then without China, it is game-over anyway. The deterrent is in North Korea’s unconditional love relationship with China, and the conditions after the love affair is gone.
So there is no deterrent value in the Minuteman test launches, only a good maintenance policy.