CHALLENGES IN ASIA
ASIA-PACIFIC CENTER FOR SECURITY STUDIES
APRIL 22, 2000 HONOLULU, HAWAII
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.