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Research Report

Missile Defense in Asia

Walter B. Slocombe
Michael P.C. Carns
Jacques S. Gansler
C. Richard Nelson
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2003
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 50
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    Christopher J. Makins

    The U.S. decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, foreshadowed by several years of intense debate within the United States, ushered in a new phase of the nuclear age after the 40-year dominance of the idea of assured destruction. This change of strategic approach resulted from several factors, including notably the continuing spread of nuclear and missile technologies and the end of the Soviet-U.S. nuclear rivalry. It has forced U.S. allies and potential rivals alike to review long-held ideas. In particular, they have had to consider the implications for their own policies of the new U.S. priority for deploying missile...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    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...

  3. (pp. 2-3)

    The United States has been working, since the end of the Cold War, to define its policy and programs for ballistic missile defense in the drastically changed geopolitical context. The Clinton administration, drawing on the lessons of the Gulf War and perceptions of the shape of future conflicts, initially gave high priority to development of systems oriented to defending deployed forces and key facilities in the theater in which a conflict might occur. They also became increasingly concerned at the possibility that the timetable for “rogue state” regimes to develop missiles capable of reaching the United States might be much...

  4. (pp. 4-5)

    U.S. missile defense programs have long included multi-national elements. Several U.S. allies have purchased various derivatives of the Patriot system for defense against short-range ballistic missiles and a few joint development programs are underway. Japan is currently involved in research collaboration and more joint efforts have been discussed. Conceptually, these efforts have not been limited to theater systems. Indeed, for many U.S. allies defensive systems that are, in technical terms, “theater” defenses because they are optimized to counter relatively short-range missiles, are, in strategic terms, “national” defenses because they would serve to protect more or less completely the national territory...

  5. (pp. 5-15)

    Of the countries in Asia, Japan has perhaps the most focused attention to the missile defense issue.⁶ Japan has, for some years, had a low-level program of cooperative research with the United States on sea-based missile defenses. Recent tensions with North Korea have stimulated new attention to the prospect of building a missile defense for Japan in cooperation with the United States.

    North Korea has, since at least the mid 1990s, possessed fully tested and operational Nodong missiles that are capable of reaching most, if not all, of Japan. The 1998 North Korean test of a potentially much longer range...

  6. (pp. 15-19)

    If missile defense is a major current policy and procurement issue for Japan and a key element of the broader security debate on Taiwan, the virtual opposite is true in South Korea. This is somewhat surprising given the crisis generated by North Korea’s acknowledgement that it has been secretly pursuing an illicit uranium enrichment program, expulsion of international inspectors, withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and restarting of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon. These actions were likely designed to put pressure on the United States to negotiate directly with North Korea at a time when Washington is preoccupied with...

  7. (pp. 19-23)

    For Taiwan, the issue of missile defense, like every other military, security and foreign policy issue, is an aspect of its uneasy relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a relationship that amounts to confrontation in the military field.

    In this context, missiles play a major role in the threat that Taiwan faces. The 150 mile-wide Taiwan Strait somewhat relaxes the “tyranny of distance” – or the lack of it – that dominates the Korean military situation. The PRC has a limited amphibious capability; it would be very difficult for it to move a significant ground attack force through...

  8. (pp. 23-26)

    China has, so far as the public record suggests, no missile defense programs of its own, and certainly no prospect of cooperation with the United States on such programs. It does, of course, have substantial offensive missile programs. The PLA is modernizing its long-range missile force, albeit at a very measured pace, with the apparent objective of replacing its current 20 or so ICBMs in vulnerable fixed silos with a somewhat larger number of mobile DF-21 and DF-31 missiles, with ranges suitable to reach Russian and U.S. targets respectively. In addition, the PLA has, as noted in the discussion of...

  9. (pp. 26-29)

    A closer strategic relationship with the United States, including support for U.S. missile defense programs, enjoys broad backing in both of the leading political parties in India. Part of the attraction of missile defense in India is that it focuses on the problem of missile proliferation. India has been powerless to deal with the proliferation of Chinese missiles and technology to Pakistan. As such, many Indians are hopeful that U.S. missile defense technology will provide a counter to the proliferation of Chinese missile technology. Furthermore, to the extent that India can gain access to U.S. missile defense technology, it may...

  10. (pp. 29-33)

    A key question for policymakers and military planners is what will be the net effects of missile defense deployments on regional security in East Asia. Our conclusion is that, if it continues to be managed well, the development of missile defenses in Asia need not lead to instability. However, this assessment should not lead to complacency on the part of the United States or others. An ongoing and comprehensive dialogue on missile defense will be needed at many levels and in many fora in order to ensure stability and predictability.

    The long lead times for developing and deploying missile defenses,...