Executive SummaryOn April 22, 2000 the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) held a one-day seminar entitled “Nuclear Weapons Challenges in Asia.” The meeting focused on the following issues: the current status and future prospects of the major components of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, the importance of nonproliferation regimes to preventing nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapons and related political trends in Asia, and the implications of the development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses on nuclear weapons policies in the region. The timing of the seminar was fortuitous: It was held just days after Russia ratified the START II Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and just two days before 187 countries would meet at the United Nations for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT Revcon).  Unfortunately, while book-marked on both ends by positive developments involving progress and review of nuclear weapons matters, the conclusions that the seminar participants drew about the future of nuclear weapons in Asia was more worrying.

The Future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: The key components of the existing and planned nuclear nonproliferation regime include the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the planned Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system, and various export control agreements. Each of these components faces problems.  Critics of the NPT point out that the central bargain of the treaty, that nuclear weapons states (NWS) would disarm if non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons, has been harmed by the relative lack of progress on disarmament. Other concerns about the NPT include the failure to achieve universal membership and the seeming lack of commitment by the NWS to the review process for the treaty. On the CTBT most criticism centers on the United States Senate’s rejection of ratification. However, the CTBT’s recent ratification by Russia and signs that China will also ratify may increase pressure on the U.S. to do the same after the 2000 presidential elections. The FMCT does not actually exist though there is an agreement to begin negotiations on a draft at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva.  Still, key NWS have agreed to abide by voluntary moratoriums on the production of fissile materials.  In terms of inspections of nuclear facilities, only eight countries have ratified a new, strengthened safeguards agreement. Overall, while the international nuclear nonproliferation regime is not unraveling at present, it is certainly not being strengthened.  In the absence of commitments to do so, particularly by the United States, there is a danger that the entire regime could begin to unravel.  

Importance of Regimes to Preventing Proliferation: Considerable skepticism has been expressed about the relevance of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime to stemming proliferation. Some have argued that other factors, not the regime, are the most important determinants of whether or not a country decides to produce nuclear weapons.  Others argue that regimes do have an impact by creating norms against proliferation and for transparency and accountability.  It is true that most components of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime followed certain realities, such as the existence of specific nuclear weapons states, but after years of being in place a retreat from them would increase hedging activities and thus increase prospects of proliferation.

Nuclear Weapons Trends and Related Political Changes in Asia: There was general consensus that threats by so-called rogue states, particularly North Korea, are only partly the objects of nuclear proliferation concern. New nuclear states such as India and Pakistan appear to be moving along the path of weaponization.  De jure NWS such as China and Russia are either modernizing their nuclear capabilities or relying on existing capabilities more or doing both.  Moreover there are signs that countries that at one time had or were suspected of having nuclear weapons interests and capabilities (e.g., Taiwan, ROK) may in the future wish to have nuclear weapons. Finally, given the uncertainty of the present situation, even U.S. friends might go down the nuclear path if the regional situation were to worsen.  Indeed, the underlying political trends in Asia are troubling.  Basic power relations are increasingly in flux. Nationalism is growing. Great power relations are more antagonistic and complicated. Regional conflict-management mechanisms are underdeveloped. And uncertainties about the United States’ commitment to the region and arms control regimes prompt concern in its reliability.

Implications of the Development and Deployment of Ballistic Missile Defenses: The situation surrounding the development and possible deployment of ballistic missile defenses is extremely complicated and in flux.  Any net assessment of the positive and negative implications of BMD for nuclear weapons proliferation must therefore be tentative. However, on the negative side it is clear that U.S. interest in BMD is aggravating relations, especially with Russia and China.  It may well be creating common ground for Russia and China that might be otherwise more difficult to find.  Other countries are also concerned that deployment of BMD may require the abrogation of existing arms control agreements and have spillover effects on the overall arms control process and existing regimes.  On the other hand, if BMD evolves in a way that allows for a defense protected build-down of nuclear weapons, then it could actually contribute to disarmament.  Moreover, if the pursuit of ballistic missile defense is undertaken on a negotiated basis rather than an unilateral one, then its deployment could be less jarring to great power relations than is currently the case.

Dimensions of the Nuclear Proliferation Problem 

There are several dimensions of the emerging nuclear proliferation problem. First, there is the prospect of rogue states (i.e., countries with serious grievances against the international system, and therefore unwilling to accept and abide by the existing “rules of the game”) acquiring nuclear weapons and delivery capabilities, especially missiles.    Though the possibility that such states might acquire nuclear weapons is real and the implications dangerous, a more serious effort has to be made to understand the extent and nature of the threat these states pose. 

 At least in the United States, the prevailing view is that ballistic missile defenses (BMD) are necessary because rogue states cannot be deterred from attacking the United States and therefore the US must protect itself as well as its troops stationed abroad through BMD deployment. However, these so-called rogue states may in fact be deterred through existing conventional (especially precision high-technology weaponry) and nuclear weapons capabilities. They may also be constrained by non-military processes or mechanisms. Concerns about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions, for example, may be dealt with through a multilateral inspections system sanctioned by the United Nations (UN) and with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran, on its own, but also through engagement with others, may be moderating its foreign and security policies and thus amenable to stepping back from its alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.

 At the same time as supporting the deployment of ballistic missile defenses, some make the argument that the US must keep its strategic forces at about 2,500 and cannot give up its no-first-use stance because it will weaken the US deterrent. This contradiction between the view of un-deterrable states and the simultaneous reliance on a deterrence capability must be addressed.  The effort to deploy BMD and maintain current nuclear postures at the same time stems from several considerations.  First, there are those who argue that NMD affords the US the possibility of projecting power in a world increasingly driven by such realist balance of power trends.  In this line of thinking, NMD affords US protection from attack, while the US simultaneously maintains strategic capabilities to project power outward. Second, others view NMD as a way of cementing US global pre-eminence. Third, others see NMD as a way of retreating from the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). In other words, NMD offers the “defense cover” under which nuclear weapons could be reduced. Indeed, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has supported both ballistic missile defenses and a further reduction of US nuclear weapons.

 A second emerging issue for nuclear proliferation is that United States’ friends or so-called “neutrals” might decide to acquire nuclear weapons. These states could adopt nuclear policies as a hedge against uncertainty, including the possibility that the United States might not be a reliable partner, as well as a general breakdown in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. India and Pakistan are examples in this category; they are not US allies but nor are they adversaries. Another open question is Japan.  If Japan began to waver in its thus far strong nonproliferation commitments, this would have an enormous impact on the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, US national security policy, and the overall nuclear trend in Asia.

 Third, and a related problem to the prospect of new states acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities, is the possibility that the erosion of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime could lead to a more competitive, multipolar international security system in general. In such a system, other states might seek to balance the US, including through the possession of nuclear weapons. The emergence of a multipolar world would be facilitated by the breakdown or weakening of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.

 A fourth dimension of the emerging nuclear scenario is that there is little support for strengthening the international nonproliferation regime. The international community has an existing, but frayed verification and enforcement system for nuclear inspections. If this system weakens further, countries may “head for the exit” and take hedging actions. According to some observers, the international nuclear nonproliferation regime as a whole has suffered from insufficient leadership from its most interested states.  The problem is not the absence of the tools in the regime, but the failure of will to use the tools of the regime for their stated purpose.  There is a crisis of confidence.  There are many processes already underway; to deal with DPRK, to deal with Iraq, to deal with South Asia, but if these processes do not lead to some sort of end-state the regime’s credibility is at stake. In order to “patch up” the regime, shared responsibility should be encouraged.

 A fifth aspect of emerging nuclear weapons challenges, especially for the United States, is that the weakening of the nuclear nonproliferation regime may lead to the questioning and challenging of its own national nuclear policy.  There are those who wish to avoid a fundamental reconsideration of US nuclear policy at all costs.  

 A final aspect of the emerging nuclear proliferation scenario is the connection between the future of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the challenge to purported American arrogance and unilateralism. There are some who believe that the spread of nuclear weapons will serve as a constraint on America’s alleged hegemonistic tendencies. It is one of the ironies that some in Washington respond to such a scenario by dismissing it and casting doubt on the ability of other states to take actions harmful to a country as powerful as the United States.

Solutions to Emerging Nuclear Proliferation Problems

Given the emerging nuclear proliferation scenario, several possible solutions may be pursued. First, the problem of rogue states and their pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities may be the easiest to address. In two of the cases, North Korea and Iraq, there are already mechanisms and processes underway that may be able to manage the potential threat of nuclear weapon acquisition. There is no certainty that these efforts will succeed, but there is clearly a series of concrete activities taking place.  In the case of Iran, there is evidence of efforts at procurements of technology and materials that are troubling in proliferation terms, but at the same time there is little evidence that Iran is making a full-court press to acquire nuclear weapons.  Moreover, there are tentative efforts at moderation domestically in Iran and a chance of improvement of relations between the United States and Iran. There is, in essence, a hyping of the rogue threats that exceed the relative danger that these countries pose. Indeed, the question may be asked, if the DPRK does freeze its missile and nuclear programs and Iran seeks an accommodation with the United States and puts its possible nuclear ambitions in a box, what does the United States do in the face of these victories? What is to be done with the myriad of programs, policies and budgets that rely for their being on threats such as those from North Korea and Iran?  While a consideration of positive scenarios is not a call for complacency, it is important to put these concerns in some perspective and to shape policies accordingly.

 A second perhaps bigger challenge than rogue states is the matter of regime maintenance and strengthening.  This issue tends to get lost, especially amongst members of the US Congress who are not completely clear on what the nonproliferation regime does and its utility. There is also a sense in Washington that while some countries are disgruntled with the regime, they will not really walk away from it.  The problem with this state of affairs is not so much that the regime will be weakened, but whether or not it will be strengthened. And if the regime is not strengthened, the capacity to deter possible future threats emanating from those countries who might seek nuclear weapons is weakened. A weakening of the regime also fails to reinforce those countries who chose to join the regime and give up on acquisition of nuclear weapons, as well as those countries who gave up nuclear weapons such as South Africa, Brazil and Argentina and others. 

 Third, another reason to strengthen the regime is that in many ways it represents a model of how the overall international security system could operate.  The key elements of the regime are transparency, rules and laws accepted for intrinsic reasons but which also have enforcement mechanisms. The search for a multi-lateral, cooperative international order versus a multi-polar, balance of power international system is reflected in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Finally, if there is a danger of break-out from the regime, a strengthened regime would provide the basis for detection and search warrants to maintain and compel adherence to the regime. In other words, there are a number of reasons why the international nuclear nonproliferation regime must be maintained and even strengthened.  The regime offers at least one way to help address nuclear proliferation challenges.

Disarmament and Universality: The Future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Disarmament and universality are two important themes that were at the center of debate at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference (REVCON) in New York.  It is doubtful whether the international nuclear nonproliferation regime can be maintained and strengthened if these two cardinal tenets and demands of the regime are unmet.  The US promotes democracy, basically because it is intrinsically valuable and because it instrumentally useful for the purposes of stability.  But, in the international system and especially on nuclear weapons, when countries push for equity the US tends to be dismissive. There is also a historical change.  With the Cold War over there is greater expectation for disarmament and universality.  Universality previously focused on Israel.  But now, with India and Pakistan overtly nuclear, China, Japan and others can be expected to push universality to include India and Pakistan.

 There are a number of possibilities in addressing these core bargains.  First, maybe it should be acknowledged openly and unambiguously that disarmament and universality is not going to happen. In that case, a second option is create new bargains taking into account the reality that the earlier bargains will go unfulfilled. There may be alternative bargains that might take us down the path of disarmament and universality.  A third alternative is that we forget about the nonproliferation bargains and rely on BMD to solve all the problems. A fourth option, which is what is actually what is happening, is “muddling along.” This is the least sustainable approach.

A Japanese Perspective on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime and Ballistic Missile Defense

A Japanese Perspective on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime

There have been several negative developments on the nuclear nonproliferation front since the NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995. These include the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May 1998, the refusal of the United States Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in October 199 and the increased emphasis given to nuclear weapons in Russia’s military and national security doctrines. These trends are further exacerbated by negative developments in international security generally.  These developments include deteriorating relations between the major powers and the weakening of the United Nations as an instrument to achieve international peace and security. The problems of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime can be seen in each of the key components of the regime.

The basic instrument of the regime, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), is close to achieving universality with 187 parties. However, Cuba, India, Israel, and Pakistan remain outside the treaty.  The fact that the latter three are de facto nuclear weapons states creates important problems for the treaty. It is highly unlikely that India, Israel and Pakistan will be parties to the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS), but at the same time they cannot be brought into the treat as nuclear weapons states (NWS) for that might lead the regime to collapse, and other states, especially so-called rogue states, to follow India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons example. At the same time, there are countries that have been party to the NPT but still present challenges to the regime.  Iraq and North Korea, for example, are not in full compliance with the regime yet.  In both cases, however, there are mechanisms in place that seek to remedy the problem of earlier non-compliance.  In Iraq’s case, UNSCOM took the initial lead and today UNMOVIC is supposed to take over these duties.  In the case of North Korea, the Agreed Framework of 1994 and the Korean Economic Development Organization (KEDO) project have contributed substantially to addressing the issue.  However, the haphazard and ad hoc approach to dealing with these challenges to the nonproliferation regime suggest the need for the NPT to have a permanent secretariat and a consultative commission to deal with possible future non-compliance. Others were less optimistic that a secretariat would have an ability to influence the NWS to make any real changes in their approaches to nonproliferation and disarmament.

Closely linked with the problems of the NPT is the issue of disarmament.  The obligation on the part of the NWS to move towards disarmament is a central bargain of the NPT and greater progress needs to be made on this front in order for non-proliferation obligations to be fulfilled as well. Indeed, some countries, such as India, have made this a central point in their arguments and actions.

Nor has there been much progress in gaining support for the enhanced safeguards system for which the IAEA adopted a model protocol in 1997.  Only eight of the forty-five countries that have signed the additional protocol have ratified it. And, though all five nuclear weapons states have signed the additional protocol, none has ratified the agreement.

The future of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is also uncertain. Some 150 countries have signed the CTBT, and more than 50 countries have ratified the treaty.  But, of the 44 countries whose signature and ratification is required before the treaty can enter into force, only 27 have done so. The failure of the United States Senate to ratify the treaty in October 1999 was a major blow to the CTBT and it remains to be seen when and how the U.S. will act on it. Japan has played a prominent role in promoting the treaty, including the dispatch of official delegations to non-ratifying countries to persuade ratification. Russia’s recent ratification of the CTBT is a hopeful sign, and may well persuade China to follow suit. However, India and Pakistan are still cautious about signing the treaty.

 Prospects for the early commencement of negotiations and conclusion of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) appear dim. There are several disagreements about the shape such a treaty should take, among them whether it should encompass existing or future stockpiles of fissile material, whether or not it should be linked to disarmament, and more recently China’s demand that FMCT negotiations be linked to preventing the militarization of space. In the meanwhile, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom have voluntarily declared moratoriums on the production of fissile material. China’s fissile production activities are not clear however, and India, Israel and Pakistan are believed to be continuing to produce unsafeguarded fissile material.  If an FMCT applies only to future production of fissile material, it will be a nonproliferation rather than disarmament measure because it will essentially legally freeze the fissile stockpiles of de facto nuclear states rather than working to reduce them. For this reason, if and when negotiations on the FMCT begin in earnest, there is likely to be pressure from non-nuclear weapons states to have any FMCT apply to existing stockpiles as well.

 In sum, the international nuclear nonproliferation regime appears to be unraveling, primarily because nuclear weapons states are losing interest in disarmament and nonproliferation.  In the early part of the 1990s there were significant positive steps on disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation, but today there are more negative trends.  Moreover, there is a general deterioration of the international security environment, including relations amongst the major powers. A United States tendency toward unilateralism and neo-isolationism is contributing to the worsening of great power relations. Future progress on both disarmament and nonproliferation will require much greater willingness of the nuclear weapons states to cooperate.

A Japanese Perspective on Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)

For Japan, the lingering possibility of a North Korean nuclear weapons program combined with past and potentially future missile firings by that country represents the gravest and most immediate security threats.  This threat perception in turn shapes Japanese attitudes towards ballistic missile defenses as well nonproliferation and arms control. 

The Taepo-dong missile firing by North Korea in August 1998 marked a turning point in the Japanese government’s views of BMD. After the missile firing, the Japanese began a BMD research program intended to last 10 to 12 years. 2010 has been set as a rough date for possible deployment.  If the United States were to exclude Japan from any BMD system that it may be able to deploy, this might cause Japan to initiate a discussion of its defense treaty with the United States.  It is in this context that the Japanese government is actively encouraging all parties to enter into nonproliferation talks more vigorously than ever.  A new arms control framework that effectively includes all major powers and principal actors is needed.

The Nuclear Weapons Outlook in Asia

The overall nuclear weapons outlook in Asia is troubled.  For most Americans, North Korea is central to Asian regional proliferation trends. It is also a critical test of the regime. North Korea cheated from within the regime and this makes it distinct from India and Pakistan who have recently gone overtly nuclear. The Permanent Five (P5) have committed themselves to reversing North Korean nuclear developments, and hence it is a test of the P5’s ability and credibility. However, North Korea is only one aspect of the regional proliferation scenario. There are other potential dimensions of the proliferation dynamic in the Asia-Pacific region.

In historical terms, in terms of the Korean peninsula, North Korea is not the only nuclear question.  The Republic of Korea (ROK) too has had nuclear weapons ambitions and activities in the past. ROK has been dissuaded from having weapons by the US at least on one occasion. There is also a question of whether a post-reunification Korea will be a nuclear weapons state or not.

In northeast Asia, Japan’s short-term non-nuclear intentions are clear, but in the long-term its intentions are an open question. There is certainly no push for nuclear weapons in Japan, but there is a debate, and the terms of that debate are slowly beginning to change. Throughout the region, and especially in China, Japan is considered to be a country with a latent nuclear weapons capability.  It is difficult to envision the scenarios under which Japan might go nuclear, but the possibility must not be dismissed.

In between northeast Asia and southeast Asia is of course Taiwan, another place with nuclear questions of its own.  Publicly available information suggests at least two episodes in Taiwan’s recent history where it seemed to be moving towards a nuclear weapons capability.  These attempts were halted due to intense U.S. pressure and monitoring of Taiwan’s fissile materials.  Even as recently as April 2000 a press report suggested that Taiwan had acquired at least two nuclear devices, presumably from Russian so-called “loose nukes” and that Taiwan was enhancing ties with South Africa and Israel.  Reportedly, about 2 and a half years ago, a Taiwanese official described to the late Gerald Segal of London’s International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), Taiwan’s nuclear policy as being one of “intense ambiguity.” Taiwan wanted to be seen as being capable of a “nuclear breakout” in as short a time as six weeks. In Taiwan there is now a debate between a “shield versus a sword”. It is clear that the missile build-up by China across the Taiwan Straits has helped to push this debate forward.

In Southeast Asia, it is generally thought that there is nothing to worry about in terms of nuclear weapons.  While this is probably a correct assessment for the near-term, it may paint too simple a picture.  If there were to be a substantial wave of nuclear proliferation elsewhere in Asia, and if the international nuclear nonproliferation regime were to be more fundamentally discredited or the US were to retreat from the regime, Southeast Asian countries might desire to have nuclear weapons.  Indonesia has had nuclear weapons ambitions in the past.  Reportedly, President Suharto had a promise from the government in Beijing in the mid-1960s that China would explode a nuclear device on Indonesian territory and permit Indonesia to call it its own.  Australia was a country that at least once was actively pursuing nuclear weapons through acquisition (reportedly from the United Kingdom) rather than developing them at home.  Southeast Asians are also somewhat concerned that they hear that China and India might compete in Southeast Asia if the United States has retreated from the region.  There has even been talk that China and India compete with each other to offer security guarantees and nuclear umbrellas to client states. However improbable this may be, there is at least some perception in Southeast Asia that the prevailing nuclear order in the sub-region could change dramatically. Others were more optimistic about nuclear trends in Southeast Asia. It was noted that Vietnam, one of the region’s possible nuclear risks, is increasingly tied into international organizations and therefore has strong disincentives to go nuclear.  Indonesia lacks the governmental organizations and national cohesion at present for a nuclear program. Moreover, it too is hamstrung by its reliance upon international organizations.  While it is true that Australia in the past has had nuclear ambitions, it is also the case that it has exhibited few signs of renewed interest. In general, southeast Asia has a strong non-nuclear commitment as reflected in the agreement on a Southeast Asian nuclear weapons free zone.

There is also the matter of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia and of course Russia itself.  China, meanwhile, has been modernizing its strategic arsenal.  China’s relatively small nuclear force is being modernized both qualitatively and quantitatively. Finally, there may be consequences from defensive deployments in the region. There is a line of argument in China that if the US moves to build strategic defense through ballistic missile deployments, then Russia will thicken its defenses and pay for that by exporting technology to India. And as the US assists Japan and others to possibly acquire defenses, China will face a more complicated picture that will lead to a clutter process of nuclear build-up amongst several powers.

As a general point, hedging behavior in Asia is well advanced.  Countries with the most concern about the breakdown of the system have already in place hedges. The question for these states is how far do they move up the threshold of operational capability and shorten the lead times in their hedge. One way countries have covered this gap is through the chemical and biological weapons realm. US unclassified assessments suggest that chemical and biological research and development programs stretch in an unbroken arc from the Persian Gulf to northeast Asia. This is not to suggest that every country in this region has an offensive biological weapons program. It has also been suggested that just as chemical and biological weapons are hedges against nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons could be hedges against precision-guided conventional weaponry.  One conclusion to draw from this is that this is a region that is ripe for wildfire proliferation. Thus far, proliferation has been creeping rather than rapid. But, in the event of a breakdown of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and negative politico-military developments, there could be a domino effect on proliferation.

Asia’s Possible Nuclear Proliferation Futures

There are several possible nuclear futures in Asia. First, there could be piecemeal erosion of the existing nuclear order, but not its collapse. A world in which the DPRK were to “escape the box” and keep nuclear weapons may not be enough to lead to widespread proliferation. Similarly, a Taiwan with nuclear weapons would have tremendous implications for cross-straits relations and trilateral PRC-Taiwan-US relations, but not necessarily unleash widespread proliferation in Asia.

Second, there could be a wildfire-like collapse of the nuclear order.  However, such a future would require a catalytic event beyond BMD.  One such possible event might be war in which a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is used to positive effect in terms of the goals of the aggressor. If weapons are seen to be useful to blackmailing the US, blackmailing coalitions, defeating Russia or China, committing and securing acts of aggression, or if the US and the other members of the P5 were to back down because of unwillingness to face the consequences of such acts, then wildfire proliferation is very likely. 

A third alternative is a triangular reemphasis.  The notion over the past decade has been that even if the nuclear weapons states (NWS) will not get to disarmament under Article VI, at least the NWS would push to marginalize nuclear weapons and reduce nuclear arsenals as substantially as possible.  In the decade ahead trends towards reduction might be reversed.  For example, China will continue to modernize and Russia might choose to abandon its pursuit of a parity-based nuclear relationship with the US and de-link its posture from the US.  It is difficult to imagine a scenario under which the US resumes production of nuclear weapons, but it could. Under this scenario, there are not likely to be new nuclear possessors in the Asia-Pacific, but the PRC, Russia and the US may move away from the de-emphasis on nuclear weapons that was their hope in the early 1990s.

A fourth possible nuclear future is that the prevailing status quo persists for quite a long time. Countries of proliferation concern may just see it in their interests to be perceived as moving towards having a nuclear capability, but not actually having it overtly. The fifth, and most optimistic, nuclear future for Asia would be a roll-back of programs that already exist and the non-acquisition of nuclear weapons by countries that might otherwise be interested.  Examples of the latter might be DPRK and Taiwan.  India and Pakistan, however, are not likely to be examples of roll-back. There are a series of viable nuclear alternatives for Asia in between the worst case and best case.

A Chinese Perspective on  Nuclear Nonproliferation and China’s Nuclear Doctrine

A Chinese Perspective on Nuclear Nonproliferation

China adjusted its nuclear nonproliferation policy in 1990 when it participated in an NPT review conference as an observer and issued a statement that praised the norm of nonproliferation. China decided that nonproliferation was in its interests in the world community, though it was still critical of some elements of the regime.  In 1992, it joined the NPT formally.  It is said that when China talked with France about joining the NPT simultaneously, France suggested that China wait but then the French joined before China.  China thus became the last to join the NPT and this was bad for China’s image.

 In 1995 China, the US and other nuclear weapons states joined together to issue national statements in giving nuclear assurances to non-nuclear weapons states.  China’s statement was controversial.  This was the first time that China had issued nuclear assurances. In February 2000 US-PRC officials held so-called “strategic consultations” in Beijing that constituted a kind of opening of arms control talks; though not officially recognized as such. Reportedly the two countries discussed their strategy for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference that took place in New York in late-April and early-May 2000.  It is significant that these talks could take place despite the differences between China and the United States on missile defense.  But it is evident and significant that China and US see common interests on the NPT at the UN conference.

Nuclear export controls have been the most difficult area in the US-PRC nonproliferation dialogue over the past decade. China’s nuclear relationship with Pakistan, Iran and other countries were unwelcome in Washington. Over the past decade, Beijing’s policy has emphasized a more rigorous, law-based, national nuclear export control system.  In May 1997, in the context of a reported ring magnet sale by the PRC to Pakistan, the US and PRC reached agreement that the PRC would not assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities abroad in the future.  This statement did not say that China had assisted any such facilities in the past, only that it promised not to do so in the future. This allowed the US to lift its sanctions on a $10 billion loan to the US private sector for investments in the PRC. This agreement was a major commitment for the PRC because it went beyond what was required of it under the NPT regime. The NPT does not require that China not have any relationship with unsafeguarded facilities such as the flow of non-nuclear material, information and expertise. China has also applied national export control regulations for both dual-use and nuclear technology. In essence, on this critical area of nonproliferation, export controls, China have moved very far in recent years.

On the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), the situation has become more difficult.  In 1994 China and the US agreed to work together on an FMCT. However, today, China is proposing that the FMCT be linked with an agreement on the non-weaponization of space.  China also has made some specific clarifications regarding what kind of FMCT it would like to see. For example, China would like the scope of the FMCT to be limited to only weapons-related fissile material (uranium and plutonium) not civilian material. China’s conditionality on the FMCT has thus expanded.

As for disarmament, especially in the context of the Russian ratification of START II, China has drawn a lesson on how to structure its nuclear forces in the future. The basic lesson that it has drawn is that it must develop a force that can work within a multilateral disarmament restraint later.  China will have two kinds of restraints. The first is the size of China’s nuclear force. China might develop a new force in the first decade of this century, but it might need to adjust that force size in the second decade of the century as a result of US-Russian progress on START III. China should take into account now the possible impacts of START II and III in the planning stages of its nuclear force posture. A second possible restraint is related to the matter of “mirving” its warheads. It is not clear that China can mirv now.  But, if China goes ahead with mirving, it might have to de-mirv in the context of multilateral disarmament. Moreover, if China were to move towards mirving it would not help encourage Russia to accept START III.

Another matter of concern for China is regional proliferation. In the Middle East, China can do very little. Israel is too far away and does not threaten China.  Indeed China benefits from military cooperation with Israel to which the US objects. China should be grateful for US intervention on the Iraq matter because US assistance to stability in the Middle East helps China’s access to energy as well. But, also because of energy access concerns, China does hope that the US stops bombing Iraq so China can engage in oil commerce with Iraq.

In northeast Asia, China does not want to see either Korea develop nuclear weapons, but China has very little leverage on North Korea, and we do not wish to use it much because North Korea is a kind of strategic ally of China. China is not happy with DPRK’s missile launch though DPRK has a right to do this. But such actions give US basis for pursuing NMD. China is taking behind the scenes actions to discourage China.

On South Asia, China has taken a US position in dealing with India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs.  US and China took a leading role in illegalizing their programs that now makes China a bit embarrassed because US President visited the region anyway. Basically, President Clinton said during his visit that the US would not support India’s nuclear weapons program the US understands that India needs it based on its own calculations. China cannot make such a concession and this leaves China as the only nuclear weapons state that is at odds with India on its nuclear weapons program. In 1999 China and India had their first nuclear dialogue on a second track basis. This year, for the first time, the two government can discuss nuclear weapons issues. China cannot still accommodate India as a de facto nuclear weapons state. But, there is a rising argument in China that it must, like the US and other NWS, be realistic about India’s nuclear weapons program.  How India will fit into China’s nuclear capabilities in the future remains to be seen.  PRC-India relations are mixed.  There has been little progress on core issues such as the territorial dispute. In the Chinese perspective, India has stated that it considers China a potential threat. Also, India’s latest missile is being developed to target China.  Hence, some Chinese see India as threat both by intention and capability. Moreover, India has stated that it wants parity with China’s nuclear weapons program, whereas China wants India to accept a subordinate capability just as China has vis-à-vis other major nuclear weapons states. In this context, China will almost certainly take into account India’s nuclear weapons program. 

China’s Nuclear Doctrine and Missile Defense

China has a policy regarding the use of nuclear weapons rather than a doctrine. Analysts should be careful that ambiguities about the doctrine be carefully examined. Publishing houses and others interested in profit have sometimes sensationalized what China’s nuclear policy is and is not. There is no firm, unanimously accepted version of China’s nuclear doctrine. There are two major elements of this policy. The first is no first-use towards any country on earth. The only possible exception to this is Taiwan.  China’s no-fist use pledge applies to a foreign country, and China does not view Taiwan as a foreign country.  A second plank of this policy is that China will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapons state. China may use nuclear weapons against a nuclear-weapons state. This applies to nuclear weapons free zone as well. These central planks of China’s nuclear policy serve also to indicate its security assurances, including negative security assurances. The United States, by contrast, has a conditional no first-use policy, though it is doubtful that the US would use nuclear weapons against China first.

Today, there are growing debates within China about the logic of its no first-use pledge. Some Chinese suggest that their country’s no first use pledge is not credible to US, can be changed according to circumstances, and is not legally binding. For example, Russia has changed its nuclear weapons policy. But China is unlikely to change its no first-use pledge soon and may never change it at all. And even if China does change its policy, it will never announce it before the change. Two considerations are driving the reconsideration. The first is the precision-guided conventional weapons capability of the United States. For China, this is very threatening. Previously China thought only US nuclear weapons would be used to pre-emptively attack China and get rid of its nuclear weapons. Such a concern leads China to conclude that it needs to modernize its nuclear capabilities and make them more mobile. China learned from the Gulf War that Iraq’s mobile launchers gave the most trouble to the US and coalition forces.  China may not go rail-mobile, but may go at least road-mobile. Such a development would concern the US and thus China would have better deterrence vis-à-vis the US. As long as China feels secure in its deterrence, it would not have to go to a launch on warning status or build more weapons. It could restrict itself to a much smaller arsenal, posing less of a threat to the US. The new DF-31 missile gives China more confidence that it has a mobile system at hand that can hold at least the western United States hostage.  China is also developing the DF-41 that would cover the whole continental US. But progress on the DF-41 would give the US Congress more justification to build an NMD.  Basically, China feels insecure because of US precision-guided conventional weapons.

This is symptomatic of a larger issue: the US has shaped Chinese nuclear policy at every stage. First, the US forced China to develop its nuclear weapons program due its early nuclear blackmail.  Second, US precision-guided conventional weapons capabilities prompted China to shift from a concept of people’s war to the concept of a people’s war under modern conditions. Finally, with missile defense the US is shaping China’s decision to enlarge its nuclear force because of China’s lack of confidence that they are enough. However, China should not “build more confidence” than it needs to compensate for US actions.

China’s position on missile defense has evolved.  At present, China is not criticizing US-Japan joint research and possibly co-development of TMD.  The US and Japan have a sovereign right to take such decisions and China has no legal right to intervene. Still, a decision by the US and Japan to go forward on TMD will certainly undermine China’s confidence in the strategic balance in East Asia. However, China will have great difficulty in accepting the possibility of building a TMD applicable to Taiwan. China is pleased that the US has postponed decision to sell the TMD-relevant Aegis to Taiwan. As for NMD, China accepts that the US can develop missile defense within the ABM framework, but in January 1999 China expressed the hope that ABM can be multilateralized to include China as well. There are arguments in China that NMD is harmful in that it would allow US to deter China, but the current ABM will not allow US to defend all of its territory. China will have difficulty in accepting NMD that is beyond the scope allowed by the ABM.

The US, however, may proceed regardless. In this case, China has two main options. First, China could take a wait and see attitude. The US may not succeed technologically and early Chinese opposition will simply solidify US support for missile defense. Second, China must be prepared for the fact that NMD with current technology is much more feasible than strategic defense initiative (SDI) of fifteen years ago.  So, NMD is likely to be at least partially successful.  A deployment decision based on only a limited number of tests will lead to a system in which the US has limited confidence.  This would be good for China.  The bottom-line is that China should not respond immediately and should have trust in China’s capabilities to protect itself.  China should not compete with the US on nuclear weapons. China does not wish to engage in an arms race because this is not helpful to its modernization plans and China does not have the economic means to sustain such a race.

An Indian Perspective on Nuclear Nonproliferation and India’s Nuclear Doctrine

An Indian Perspective on Nuclear Nonproliferation

Though India is not a party to the NPT, developments bearing on the NPT have affected India’s nuclear option, and today influence its nuclear strategy. There are several issues that arose since the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995. First, there is the question of the legality of the nuclear weapons. Second, the way in which the NPT was extended has created esentment amongst non-nuclear weapons states.  Third, there is unrestrained  vertical nuclear proliferation, including the evolution of strategic and sub-strategic nuclear weapons capabilities.  As long as the nuclear weapons states develop new weapons designs there is little hope of containing a break-out from the NPT. A fourth concern is that efforts to alter the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty will lead to a nuclear arms race with spill-over implications for non-nuclear weapons states as well. A fifth concern is that some of the nuclear weapons states have not made efforts on behalf of the protocols signed in conjunction with the 1995 indefinite extension of the NPT.  For example, little progress has been made to address Arab and other states’ concerns about Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the creation of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.  A sixth problem is the opposition by certain NWS to UN efforts to prevent the militarization of space. A seventh concern is that there has been deployment of nuclear weapons in non nuclear weapons states.  This constitutes a violation of Articles I and II of the NPT.  Moreover, the participation of non-nuclear weapons states in collective defense planning involving nuclear weapons, as in the case of NATO, may lead to countries without a nuclear umbrella to create their own strategic capabilities. An eighth concern is the discriminatory nature of arms control agreements.  For example, the CTBT has “permissible activities” that in effect allow for subcritical testing and special arrangements for fusion experiments with lasers. Finally, the continuing refusal of the NWS to start negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) towards nuclear disarmament constitutes one of the greatest threats to further proliferation. Most Indians suggest that the NWS contribute to the instabilities that afflict the nonproliferation regime. In essence, the seeds of proliferation lie with the NWS and they are fertilized by their example.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine & Strategy

India’s nuclear doctrine, still in the making, should not be based on prevailing political relations but rather the existing capabilities and emerging potential of other states. It is highly likely that India will create and deploy strategic nuclear assets, despite US opposition to these efforts.  This fact creates a basic conflict of interests between the United States and India. Moreover, the United States has certain strategic calculations vis-à-vis China and Pakistan, two nuclear-capable states who colluded in nuclear proliferation, and this reality also generates tangible contradictions in US efforts to evolve a positive relationship with India.

The threat to India is of three types. First, there is a direct threat of the use of nuclear weapons to coerce India into accepting the policies of two of its neighbors.  Indeed, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his May 1998 letter to President Clinton, alluded to this perceived threat.  Second, there is an indirect threat from non-regional powers to roll-back India’s nuclear strategy. If such a strategy were to succeed, then India would be deprived of the means to deter the first, direct, threat.  Finally, there is the threat that efforts will be made to constrain India’s nuclear weapons competencies to those of “first-generation” weapons systems which would be overtaken by the dynamics of nuclear weapons improvements and hence leave India’s deterrence capabilities essentially obsolete.

India must therefore design a nuclear policy to cope with all three of these threats and maintain a nuclear strategy that is in keeping with its long-term national security interests. There are three key elements that must be included in such a policy and strategy.  First, India must have a nuclear force structure that is able to deter two established regional adversaries that have a proven nuclear weapons capability. This force structure also should be reviewed in keeping with the dynamics of the global nuclear weapons environment. Second, India must ensure that it does not enter into arms control agreements that do not impinge on India’s nuclear strategy or undermine its deterrence abilities.  Finally, India must ensure that its technological competencies and strategies are in keeping with those of other nuclear weapons states.

Certain key assumptions, accepted by consecutive Congress, United Front and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments, guide the Nuclear Doctrine Paper that was submitted by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) to the Cabinet Committee for Security Affairs (CSA). First, there is a belief that nuclear weapons remain instruments for national and collective security. Nuclear weapons do have utility.  The selective possession of these weapons has been legitimized and perpetuated by the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).  Second, the de jure nuclear weapons states have asserted their intention to continue to rely on nuclear weapons and have essentially abandoned their commitment to disarmament. Third, autonomy of decision-making on development and defense issues is the right of democratic India. And finally, the very existence of offensive nuclear doctrines pertaining to the first use of nuclear weapons and the insistence of some nuclear weapons on the legitimacy of their use even against non-nuclear weapon countries constitute a threat to peace, stability and the sovereignty of states.

India’s draft nuclear doctrine calls for a “credible minimum deterrent”. The proposed doctrine suggests that India’s strategic forces be based on a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets.  These assets would need to be survivable and viable.  Command and control is predicated on unity of authority with the authority to release nuclear weapons for use residing in the person of the Prime Minister of India or the designated successor. This deterrent force would be used for retaliation only. Conventional military forces would be maintained at a level to raise the threshold for conflict.  However, a number of other questions regarding India’s nuclear doctrine and strategy remain classified and therefore beyond the realm of public debate.

US plans to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses are as yet unclear.  But, from an Indian perspective, such US plans are leading China to improve its air defense systems, miniaturize its warheads and develop MIRV technology.  India will therefore have to respond to ensure the viability of its deterrent.  If the nuclear arms race persists, or is even renewed, in response to ballistic missile developments, then India, with limited nuclear test experience and data, may have to consider further nuclear tests.  This is a live possibility.  India has changed its approach to disarmament and its deteriorating security environment at great political, economic, and moral costs.  Therefore, the new policy cannot be frittered away by accepting an unclear position in a discriminatory nonproliferation regime.

Most understand that India’s development of nuclear weapons will necessarily engender a Pakistani response.  Some within Pakistan have no doubt about their country’s ability to match Indian nuclear capabilities. Others are not so confident, but believe that Pakistan should try, even if it means failure. There are very few persons in Pakistan who believe that they should not even try to match Indian nuclear capabilities.  This is not to suggest that Pakistan wants exact parity, but Pakistan does want a nuclear weapons capability to deal with India. However, there are also substantive differences between Indian and Pakistan nuclear weapons developments, and there are likely to be considerable differences in their eventual policies and doctrines. For example, nuclear weapons in Pakistan are based on a dual-track and competing approach between the military-directed program and the civilian-directed program.  Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is likely to be more “aggressive” in the sense that it will not abjure first strike to compensate for India’s conventional superiority. Pakistan is also likely to be interested in tactical nuclear weapons, which apparently India is not interested in pursuing.

Russia’s Security Perspectives and Nuclear Doctrine

Russia’s Security Perceptions

As Russia itself, the country’s nuclear doctrine is in transition.  There is no one document that lays out Russia’s nuclear doctrine. Rather, it may be found in various statements of policy, especially the Military Doctrine and the Concept of National Security signed by President Vladimir Putin in January 2000. Even these documents, however, are not definitive and they can lose their credibility significantly with political and personnel changes in the Russian government.

The first version of the Concept of National Security document was issued in December 1997.  The revision in January 2000 stemmed from a number of specific concerns reflecting a more general nervousness about aspects of Western and particularly United States policy. The first consideration was the issue of NATO expansion which was pursued and completed in the face of Russian opposition. Despite former President Yeltsin’s warnings about NATO expansion ushering in a “cold peace”, the United States and its allies went ahead. Moreover, Russia has been given only a consultative role rather than enjoying equal status as with other countries involved in the process. 

Second, the handling of the Kosovo crisis had a negative effect on Russian perceptions.  To many Russians, the bombing of Yugoslavia violated the principles of the United Nations Charter, was aggression against a sovereign state, and a clear indication of how western countries would behave following the expansion of NATO. In the wake of Kosovo, even Russian liberals were disenchanted with the west.  Aleksei Arbatov, a member of the reform-minded Yabloko and the deputy chairman of the Duma’s defense committee, even suggested that Russia needed nuclear weapons to ensure that the Kosovo scenario was not repeated.

A third factor of the revised Concept of National Security is the feeling on the part of many Russians that the United States wants to “dictate” international events. The January 2000 version of the document worries about “the trend towards structuring international relations based on domination…led by the USA, and designed to facilitate unilateral decisions, primarily involving military might.”  The earlier, 1997 version of this document spoke only of the formation of a multi-polar world.

The bottom-line of the various permutations of the national security and military doctrine documents is that the emphasis on external as opposed to internal security threats has grown, there is more mistrust of the outside world and Russia’s immediate neighbors, and there is now an ideological basis for more defense spending. For example, the State Duma has passed a law requiring a fixed level of allocations for financing strategic nuclear forces regardless of the general level of funding for overall defense programs. Finally, thee is more unilateralist sentiment in Russia today, and less interest in cooperation and partnership.

Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine

The above security perceptions provide the basis for the “heavy accent” on nuclear weapons in Russia today. Moreover, US interest in ballistic missile defense, the view in Russia that preservation and modernization of nuclear weapons constitutes the “last resort” of superpower status, and the present weakness of the country’s conventional forces reinforce the need for greater reliance on nuclear weapons. However, it would be inaccurate to exaggerate or misconstrue the nature of the doctrinal changes.  For example, Russia’s nuclear doctrine continues to emphasize nuclear deterrence, not warfighting. And the uproar over the announcement that Russia would countenance the first use of nuclear weapons, even in response to mass use of conventional weapons is misplaced. The fact is that Russia announced that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons first as far back as 1993.  It is quite true that this announcement on first use represents a major departure from the nuclear doctrine of the former Soviet Union.

Another issue that has attracted attention is the threshold at which Russia would possibly use nuclear weapons. The draft of the new doctrine states that nuclear weapons will be used “in response to the deployment of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or her allies, and also in response to large-scale aggression using conventional weapons in circumstances when the national security of the Russian Federation is threatened.”  However, in the earlier version of the Concept of National Security, the use of nuclear weapons was predicated on “the threat to the mere existence of [the] Russian Federation as a sovereign state.” Some observers interpret the new doctrine as widening the conditions under which Russia would use nuclear weapons. However, Russians have countered that any use of nuclear weapons would signify the last resort. There have also been statements suggesting that the new threshold is mere bravado because Russian strategic and tactical forces are not designed for a first strike and the country does not have nuclear superiority required to make a first strike feasible. 

Russia is willing to negotiate further limitations on its nuclear arsenals but based on the principle of strategic stability, preservation of the balance of strategic weapons and maintenance of the ABM treaty. The problem is that there are no commonly agreed and shared principles of strategic stability.  There is an urgent need to clarify the fundamental principles of nuclear equilibrium cooperatively.  

The broader truth is that Russia’s nuclear weapons doctrines are evolving and subject to change. Much will depend on the actions of the West and especially the United States.  This should be kept in mind if Western leaders want to see Russia that is cooperative not only in declarations.

Conclusions and the Importance of the United States

Considerable doubt was expressed that the current international climate is favorable to cooperation.  The current climate seems to favor self-help and the emphasis is on multi-polar power centers. In this context, interest in and reliance on nuclear weapons is likely to increase, not decrease. On the other hand, the argument was made that globalization, and the inter-linkages it creates, could be a factor against greater hostility and thus interest in nuclear weapons use. However, others reject globalization’s potentially palliative effects on the prospects for conflict by suggesting that once national interests are involved and conflict erupts, institutions and inter-linkages play a diminished role.

The policies of the United States, it was generally agreed, would have a major influence on nuclear developments in the region and more widely. Proliferation pressures may in the end stem from doubt about whether or not the US will continue to have a presence in the Asia-Pacific. In the absence of US presence, threat perceptions will intensify and stability in turn will diminish. In the US domestic environment there are some who have fundamental doubts about the conceptual framework and practical utility of arms control agreements. Hence, their support for engagement as well regimes and institutions of arms control is weak.  In such a context there is a danger that the US policies will not help sustain nonproliferation. For example, there is likely to be no push for CTBT ratification in the remaining months of this administration. 

In the most extreme scenario, how the US responds to a regional war might shape the responses of other countries to acquiring nuclear weapons.  If the US backs away from a regional war, the US might lose credibility in international affairs.  If the US applies force in way that is perceived to be excessive or inappropriate, countries might be expected to bandwagon and try to balance the US.  If the US engages and exercises power in a proportionate way, it will solidify its status as a responsible actor in international affairs. 

This report was co-authored by Dr. Satu Limaye, Chief, Research Division, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and Dr. Don Berlin, Professor, International Relations.  For more information, please contact them at 808-971-4054 or 808-971-8977 respectively.