Missile Defense in Asia
By: Michael P. C. Carns, Jacques Gansler, C. Richard Nelson, Walter B. Slocombe
Missile defenses involve far more than simply technical responses to technical problems; they have a profound policy and strategic dimension. First of all, missile defenses are part, but only part, of the response to the challenge of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means for their delivery. Second, issues of other countries’ cooperation with the United States on defenses – whether for the United States itself or for their own territory – usually raise sensitive issues for the relationships between those countries and their neighbors. Third, on the strategic dimension, missile defenses affect strategic stability in terms of the U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons balance, despite Russia’s very mild response to U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
In the context of Asian security and Asian relationships, the following elements are of particular importance:
The prospect of the United States deploying a national missile defense or cooperating with others in the region on their own defenses impacts on the U.S.-Chinese relationship because of Chinese concerns – and the hopes of at least some national missile defense (NMD) advocates in the United States – that such a defense would call into question China’s capability to attack the United States (and others in the region) with nuclear weapons.
- The prospect of North Korea developing both nuclear weapons and long-range missiles has been at the core of the U.S. rationale for early deployment of a missile defense – and of Japanese interest in defense for itself. In the face of North Korean missile programs and its acknowledgement of an active program to develop nuclear weapons, the problem of defense against those weapons assumes new urgency, as does the question of how defenses affect the broader dynamic of security in North East Asia.
- For those most likely to be interested in cooperation with the United States on missile defenses – Japan and Taiwan – military programs, and in particular, those that involve close cooperation with the United States, raise much broader domestic and international political concerns rooted in history and geopolitics.
- The question of the degree to which the United States builds defenses for itself and assists others in the Asia-Pacific region in providing such defenses for themselves is linked to the long-term questions of the role of the United States in Asia-Pacific security, of its continuing commitment and presence, of the degree to which military defense is a central factor in that role, of the durability of U.S. bilateral alliances and of the posture of the United States and China toward each other.
- Although India, Pakistan and China all publicly claim that their nuclear weapons posture will be guided by a doctrine of “minimum deterrence”, they have not developed measures that provide much confidence in their ability to maintain strategic stability.