Case for Missile Defence"
Far East Economic Review
case for ballistic missile defence, or BMD, especially in
Asia, has not been made convincingly by the Clinton administration,
allowing the Chinese, Russians and even America's European
allies to admonish Washington in the court of world public
opinion. It is time America clearly articulates the need
for missile defence in Asia.
Clinton administration rightly cites the North Korean missile
threat as one of the reasons driving the necessity for missile
defence, but for some inexplicable reason it has failed
to state the more troubling and exigent missile problem
in the region: China. Despite White House denials to the
contrary, the most compelling reason for the development
and deployment of missile defence is the People's Republic
of China. Beijing's burgeoning offensive missile capability
is altering the region's strategic landscape and undermining
stability. It is China that is precipitating an arms race
and propelling the need for BMD in Asia.
in an era when considerable international effort has been
put into reducing the need for nuclear weapons and ballistic
missiles, China is moving counter to the times. The PRC
is developing one of the most daunting missile challenges
in the world today. China's ongoing ballistic missile buildup,
robust strategic nuclear-force modernization programme and
irresponsible proliferation practices make missile defence
a requirement in Asia, not an indulgence.
many downplay China's ballistic missile and nuclear-force
modernization, the PRC has tested the DF-31, a new mobile
intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the
West Coast of the U.S. It is also developing a submarine-launched
version of the DF-31, the JL-2, and an even longer-range
mobile ICBM, the DF-41. The JL-2 will give China the capability,
for the first time, to target parts of the continental U.S.
from maritime areas near the PRC coastline. All are expected
to be able to carry multiple warheads and be deployed this
decade. Their introduction will enhance and broaden China's
strategic force structure and increase its nuclear strike
and deterrence capability. China has already deployed over
250 short-range ballistic missiles into its theatre-missile
arsenal opposite Taiwan. This number is expected to grow
to over 650 missiles in the next five years. These mobile
missiles can also be used against Japan, South Korea or
are emerging as one of Beijing's most important political
and military instruments of power. They improve China's
war-fighting capability, alter the dynamics of deterrence
in the region, shift the balance of power in Asia and are
a source of provocation and instability. The preponderance
and asymmetry of the Chinese missile force may reduce Beijing's
compromise and increase the propensity for coercive diplomacy
or force. This should be cause for concern. In any confrontation
with Beijing-political or military-Washington would have
to be mindful of China's improved strategic operational
flexibility and sophistication; how these changes limit
American freedom of action; and how they influence U.S.
friends and allies. Washington must acknowledge the possibility
of conflict with Beijing especially over the issue of Taiwan,
North Korea or the South China Sea, and plan accordingly.
Chinese have vociferously condemned American missile-defence
programmes as destabilizing instruments of American hegemony.
However, the PRC's international arms control and diplomatic
crusade against missile defence represents an effort to
deflect attention from the real issue, which is the direction,
scope and pace of its strategic nuclear weapons and ballistic
programmes. Contrary to Beijing's assertions, a regional
arms race will be based upon the deployment of Chinese offensive
missiles and the PRC's perceived regional ambitions, not
the fielding of missile defence.
will certainly be consequences to the deployment of missile
defence in Asia, but the cost of ignoring the evolving Chinese
missile threat greatly outweighs the price of responding.
Not proceeding with BMD will leave the U.S. and its Asian
friends and allies defenceless and open to coercion and
intimidation by the PRC. The deployment of an effective
BMD will demonstrate
continuing commitment to the region and dissuade states
from pursuing missile programmes. It will enhance stability,
discourage adventurism, deter aggression and ultimately
stem misperception and miscalculations. BMD provides a capability
to prolong peace and stability in Asia. The threat to peace
in Asia is missiles not missile defence.