Presented to the Stimson Center/CNA NMD-China Project on February 20, 2002
During the Cold War, Europe was the region most likely to be affected – for better or for worse – by US missile defense deployments. Now Asia has replaced Europe as the region most likely to be roiled by such deployments. Beijing and Islamabad are unequivocally opposed to any national missile defense deployments. New Delhi sees missile defenses in a mixed light, attracted by the possibility of technology and military transfers from the United States as well as constraints on China, but wary of the impulse US deployments could impart to Chinese missile programs. Chinese countermeasures are likely to bring Indian reactions that, in turn, stir Pakistan in a cascading effect.
Reactions to missile defense in northeastern Asia are similarly mixed. Taiwan appears to have few, if any, reservations about U.S. missile defense plans, viewing prospective deployments – especially of TMD – as an opportunity to reconnect with the US military and as a counter to China’s missile buildup. China, meanwhile, continues to warn against US efforts to obtain defensive as well as offensive strategic superiority and against any missile defense collaboration between Washington and Taipei. Tokyo’s sentiments are divided: on one hand, worried about North Korea’s missile threat while, on the other, anxious that a US policy isolating the DPRK will endanger regional security. Concern about a U.S.-China clash and Beijing’s growing missile arsenal also contributes to Tokyo’s ambivalence. South Korea supports a US missile shield. Like Tokyo, however, Seoul also is concerned by Pyongyang’s reactions to missile defense and other US actions focused at North Korea. President Bush’s inclusion of the DPRK as part of the “evil axis” raises similar concern that isolating the DPRK only encourages its reversion to protracted and destabilizing confrontation with the South, Japan and the US Despite Pyongyang’s recent willingness to reengage on obtaining light-water reactors through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), talks on ending North Korea’s missile program remain frozen.