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Kwajalein Atoll and the new arms race
PCRC Background Briefing
Kwajalein Atoll and the new arms race : Ballistic Missile Defence and the Asia-Pacific region - PCRC Background Briefing, February 2000
In the 1940s, Marshall Islanders were evacuated from their homes on Bikini and Enewetak Atolls to make way for a series of US nuclear tests. The islanders were asked to move "for the good of mankind and to end all world wars", as the United States tested its atomic and hydrogen bombs.
Today, Marshall Islanders are living with the radioactive legacies of the 67 US atmospheric tests between 1946 and 1958. And although nuclear testing in the Pacific finished with the last French tests at Moruroa Atoll in 1996, the Pacific islands are still being used as a testing ground for nuclear arsenals.
In October 1999, the United States tested a new missile defence system from Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. A mock nuclear warhead, launched from a missile fired from California, was knocked out of the sky by an interceptor missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll. A second test in January 2000 failed to hit the target. These tests are part of a series of American operations to develop a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system.
The United States is engaged in a new round of military build up (America’s share of world military spending today is larger than in 1985, at the height of Cold War confrontation with the former Soviet Union). To justify a new round of military spending and prop up major aerospace and military contractors, the new BMD system is supposed to deter a threat of missile attack from a "rogue nation" like Iraq or North Korea, or a deliberate or accidental missile launch by China or Russia.
This PCRC briefing paper sets out the background to the current BMD program, and how it affects the Marshall Islands. The paper also looks at the destabilising impact of this new arms race on countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ballistic Missile Defence
The US Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program is a scaled-down version of the Reagan Administration’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars"), which aimed to establish a space-based system that would protect the United States from a massive Soviet missile attack. Star Wars never got off the ground, even after 15 years and more than $50 billion of research costs. Unlike President Reagan’s 1980s vision, however, the BMD is not capable of protecting the United States from an all-out nuclear attack - it is supposedly directed against missiles fired by "rogue" states like North Korea.
Under President Reagan, the United States established the US Space Command in 1985 - a joint Army, Navy and Air Force military command to co-ordinate Star Wars research and testing. With the revived NMD program, the Clinton Administration established a new military command on 1 October 1997 - the US Army Space and Missile Defence Command. The Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (BMDO) provides technical support to the US Army space program, to manage the billions of dollars allocated to this space age technology.
The BMD program is designed to include two elements:
a) The National Missile Defence (NMD) system that, if deployed, aims to shield all 50 US states from a limited long-range missile strike.
b) The Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) system is designed to neutralise a strike on US forces or their allies by destroying incoming short-range enemy missiles. It is designed to operate in a particular theatre of military operations, such as East Asia or the Middle East.
The US decision on whether to deploy a national anti-ballistic missile system is scheduled to be made in June 2000 during a "Deployment Readiness Review". According to US President Bill Clinton, that decision will be based on four factors: the readiness of the technology, the impact on arms control and relations with Russia, the cost effectiveness, and the threat. If the decision is to go ahead, the system would be operational in 2005, instead of 2003 as originally envisaged by the Pentagon. The extra time is for testing, chiefly at leased facilities at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
But in the middle of the US Presidential campaign in 2000, the Democratic Party will not want to be seen as "soft on defence". Although officials say no formal decision on a US missile defense system will be made until June 2000, recent developments suggest that the administration will proceed with the development of a system.
According to United Press International: "In the wake of the October 1999 Senate defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), word leaked out that the administration was now focusing on ways to get Russia on board for changing parts of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which would prohibit the nationwide system that is under consideration." Any NMD will breach the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) between the United States and Russia. As discussed below, China is also opposed to US plans to share TMD systems with Japan and Taiwan.
Should NMD proceed, in its first phase to be complete by 2005, Alaska is the preferred site for the deployment of 100 anti-missile interceptors. The Pentagon claims that the Alaska site would provide adequate coverage for all US states. The site would also include construction of a powerful new battle-management radar. Politicians in North Dakota are arguing that some of the NMD forces be allocated to their state.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has also completed a $18 billion upgrade to its missile-tracking and command-centre components. NORAD, a binational, US-Canadian military command, is located in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. According to a Reuters report: "Now the Pentagon is getting set to launch a giant systems-integration project, setting the stage for a proposed shield to protect the United States from limited missile attack by a 'rogue regime'. The work will tie about 40 air, space and missile systems into a single, integrated command and control system - the biggest modernisation since the complex became fully operational on 1 January 1966"
Cost overruns without results
The US government has allocated $10.5 billion over the next five years for research and tests into BMD. US President Bill Clinton, in his budget submitted to Congress on 1 February 1999, requested an extra $6.6 billion for work on the national missile defence system over the next six years, creating the $10.5 billion total budget between now and 2005. However, most estimates expect even the small initial system envisioned in that budget would cost far more. The US General Accounting Office has estimated that it would cost $18 to $28 billion to deploy a small system.
In March 1999, the US Congress approved legislation mandating the deployment of a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) "as soon as technically possible". The US House of Representatives approved the resolution 317-102; the US Senate vote was 90-3.
The main beneficiaries of this military spending are US aerospace and defence corporations. Boeing Corporation builds the launch vehicle for the NMD missile, while Raytheon Corporation (formerly Hughes Aerospace) manufactures the "Killer interceptor". Raytheon is the major contractor at the Kwajalein Missile Range.
The vast sums allocated for NMD and TMD merely adds to the $60 billion spent since President Reagan launched his Star Wars project in 1983. All this money has not lead to the deployment of a single effective system. It will take far more testing, and substantially increased budgets, to deploy a system that can be shown to be reliable and effective, but the threatened deployment of NMD and TMD is causing problems throughout the Pacific Islands and Asia. The money spent by the United States on missile defences is encouraging other nations to improve their missile capacity and countermeasures, deepening the arms race and insecurity at a time when many people are looking to the abolition of nuclear weapons as the best way of increasing international security.
Kwajalein Atoll Missile Testing Range
The major testing ground for both TMD and NMD missiles is the US Army Kwajalein Atoll / Kwajalein Missile Range (USAKA / KMR), located at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
For decades, the lagoon in Kwajalein Atoll has been the splashdown point for missiles test-fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The history of Kwajalein’s role in the development of Trident, MX, Minuteman and other US missiles is set out in Giff Johnson’s Collision Course at Kwajalein.
Kwajalein Atoll is made up of nearly 100 coral islands surrounding a 2,300-square-kilometre lagoon (the largest lagoon in the world). Under U.S. Army control since 1964, the USAKA / KMR lease covers eleven islands in the atoll. The Kwajalein bases are a $4 billion complex, including radar tracking, intelligence collection and missile launching facilities. US budget documents outline Kwajalein’s many roles:
In the 1970s and 1980s, Marshall Islanders staged "sail-ins" to occupy the islands in Kwajalein Atoll, in protest over US failure to compensate them for the loss of land and damage to the environment. "Operation Homecoming" in 1982 lasted four months, with Kwajalein landowners demanding the right to return to their home islands. Today, lease payments to the Kwajalein Atoll Development Authority (KADA) and landowners amount to $13 million a year. Under the KMR rental agreement, the United States pays landowners on 36 wetos (parcels of land) on Kwajalein Island. Former Marshall Islands President Imata Kabua is the Iroij (Chief) on 22 of those wetos and Anjua Loeak is Iroij on a further 12 wetos. Each of the remaining 2 wetos has a different Leroij.
Of the 1,277 Marshallese employed at Kwajalein, more than 1,060 work for Range Systems Engineering and Integrated Range Engineering, both run by Raytheon Corporation. Over 150 women work as domestic servants for US personnel on Kwajalein Island, travelling from Ebeye Island each day and returning home at night. Ebeye, once described as "the slum of the Pacific", today houses more than 12,000 people on less than 100 acres.
Even with the end of the Cold War, Kwajalein Atoll remains central to the testing and development of new missiles. As US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth told Congress in October 1998:
"According to a Department of Defence assessment, the USAKA / KMR is a ‘national asset’ - currently the only facility in the world with an arena suitable for full scale testing of long-range missiles. The study also determined that Kwajalein is uniquely situated for intelligence gathering and provides important support for our space programs. We have, over time, invested upwards of US$4 billion in this facility, and relocating would be a costly and difficult proposal. Our lease of Kwajalein base expires in 2001 though if we choose to renew, our Compact with the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) provides automatic renewal rights for an extra 15 years."
The head of the US Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command, Lieutenant-General John Costello describes Kwajalein as the "gem in the crown". Costello sees Kwajalein as becoming more important in the future because of TMD and NMD: "Kwajalein is the singular place where all the capabilities exist to gauge the success or failure of missile defence systems. If we tell Americans that a national defence system works, it better work. The only place in the world to do precision testing is Kwajalein."
Kwajalein lagoon's shallow waters make for easy retrieval of test objects, and the very deep surrounding ocean provides secure disposal of missiles and warheads not to be recovered. The ALTAIR radar at Kwajalein is one of only three around the world that has deep space tracking capacity.
Kwajalein and Ballistic Missile Defence tests
On 1 October 1999, the United States conducted its first test of a prototype National Missile Defence (NMD) system. A modified Minuteman ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. As it flew over the Pacific, the missile released a mock nuclear warhead and a decoy. Another missile was then launched from Kwajalein Atoll, 4,300 miles away and the dummy target was intercepted and destroyed 140 miles above the Pacific Ocean by an "exoatmospheric kill vehicle" (EKV). According to the NMD Joint Program Office: "This 'hit to kill' intercept demonstrates that a warhead carrying a weapon of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical or biological - will be totally destroyed and neutralised."
As John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists notes: "What they've done is the equivalent of shooting a hole-in-one. What they have to be able to do is shoot a hole-in-one every time. Missile defense must work perfectly if it's going to work at all."
However, the second test in the series, on 18 January 2000, was not successful. The US Defence Department press release after the test notes simply that "an intercept was not achieved." The failure was a significant setback, meaning that the interceptor missile missed its target in spite of tens of millions of dollars of high-technology support systems.
The October 1999 test was an improvement over previous Star Wars tests - of 16 previous trials, only two hit the mark, in 1984 and 1991. But the Kwajalein tests are highly controlled and critics remain doubtful about the system's reliability under stressful combat conditions. In October, the target was simplified to include fewer decoys than previous "fly-by" tests. This was only a test of the "kill vehicle," the last component that destroys the incoming warhead. The booster rocket, the radars, and the integrated management system were not tested. Other elements of the system, including space based sensors, ground based radars, and new rocket boosters and command centres have yet to be tested. Only one of the first three tests will involve the complete system, and all three will use surrogate parts, not the actual components.
The Kwajalein tests - which cost more than $100 million - were the first of twenty planned intercept tests over the next six years to demonstrate the effectiveness and reliability of NMD system technology. However by the time of the deployment decision in June 2000, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will have conducted only three intercept tests of the proposed NMD system.
US bases in the Pacific islands are also being used for Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) development as well as the National Missile Defence tests. Different branches of the US Armed Forces are in competition to develop TMD systems.
The naval TMD program is proposed as the US Navy’s defence system against missiles deployed during the Gulf War. The US Navy is conducting short-range missile tests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands, on the western end of Kauai island in Hawai’i. The US Navy plans to fire interceptor missiles from ships at short-range missiles launched from Nihau island during tests in 2000. In December 1999, the destroyer USS Kane test-fired two missiles at PMRF as part of the TMD program - the first at-sea firings of the new rockets.
The US is seeking environmental approval to develop launch and instrumentation sites in the islands to support their TMD program – at Tern Island, Johnston Atoll, Nihau and existing PMRF sites on Kauai in Hawai’i.
As well as the NMD tests, Kwajalein Atoll is being used for the TMD program. Intermediate-range missiles from Barking Sands in Hawai’i and short-range tactical missiles from Wake Island will be lobbed into Kwajalein lagoon as part of TMD operations. Since the mid-1990s, the US has used Bikien island on Aur as a launch site for short-range missiles aimed at Kwajalein lagoon. (For example, Patriot missiles fired from Meck Island in Kwajalein Atoll shot down two SCUD missiles launched from Aur Atoll in February and March 1997).
Kwajalein is used for Radar System tests for the Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) tests, tracking missiles fired from Wake Island. (Of the first eight THAAD tests at the Army’s White Sands missile range in New Mexico, which started in 1995, only two hit the single target missile). Pentagon officials have called for further THAAD testing at Kwajalein before the THAAD system is put into the field.
Impact on the Republic of the Marshall Islands
The United States has guaranteed access to the Kwajalein Missile Range for another 15 years. However the relationship with the Republic of the Marshall Islands is clouded by current negotiations over the Compact which links the two countries.
The United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was formally ended by the UN Security Council in 1990, after the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) both ratified Compacts of Free Association with the United States in 1986. The 15-year Compacts for RMI and FSM run until 2001 (The Republic of Palau’s Compact runs until later in the decade, due to the long struggle over Palau’s nuclear free Constitution).
Under the Compacts, Washington takes responsibility for defence of RMI, FSM and Palau, in return for the right to deny access to third countries - a policy of strategic denial originally directed against the Soviet Union. The Compacts were created at a time of Cold War paranoia about supposed Soviet advances in the Pacific.
In October 1999, the Marshall Islands and the United States began renegotiation of their Compact of Free Association. In 1999, the US government appointed a Special Negotiator for the Compact renegotiation. Allen P. Stayman previously served as Director of the Office of Insular Affairs (an office in the US Department of Interior that is responsible for relations with the "interior" islands of Micronesia!). Stayman heads an Interagency Group on the Freely Associated States, which includes representatives of the US Departments of State, Defence and Interior
A new Marshall Islands government was elected in November 1999, headed by United Democratic Party politician Kessai Note. President Note replaces former President Imata Kabua, one of the largest landowners in Kwajalein Atoll.
The Compact negotiations largely focus on financial management and economic aid, but security and defence issues are also central. According to October 1998 testimony to Congress by Stanley Roth (US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs), there were three key security reasons for the Compacts with the Marshall Islands, FSM and Palau:
"First, the principle of strategic denial elaborated in the agreements with each of the three Freely Associated States (FAS) guaranteed the United States exclusive military access to these countries and their surrounding waterways. Second, our agreement with the RMI ensured continued access to Kwajalein military facility. Third, our agreement with Palau included the right to develop a military base should the United States need an alternative to the Philippines."
Kurt Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for the Asia-Pacific region, reaffirmed this in testimony to Congress in October 1998: "The overriding defence interest in the negotiations will be the continued use of the Kwajalein missile range and the facilities on Kwajalein Atoll. The requirements of our missile defense and space surveillance programs, combined with the uniqueness of Kwajalein's location, infrastructure investment, and real world treaty restrictions, makes this an issue of the highest priority."
As the United States can unilaterally extend the Kwajalein leases for fifteen years after they expire in 2001, the Marshall Islands government is seeking increased rental payments to the government and Kwajalein landowners.
RMI-US negotiations over Kwajalein include the issue of mid-corridor people living on Ebeye Island (located next to Kwajalein Island that hosts the main KMR headquarters). In the early 1960s, some two hundred people were moved from islands in the mid-atoll corridor of the atoll and relocated to Ebeye, to make a corridor for the missile path on Kwajalein. Today, there are more than 20,000 mid-corridor people yet housing hasn’t expanded for them and there are demands for better education, job training and job preference for employment (which the USAKA refuses as an "equal opportunity" employer).
The US government has fiercely protected its control over defence and security issues under the Compact. In December 1997, the US government lodged complaints with the RMI government when the Marshall Islands failed to consult before signing the Ottawa Convention to ban landmines (a treaty the United States has refused to sign). "We don't want to make the United States mad, but we had to vote our conscience," explained the then RMI Foreign Minister Phillip Muller. "Usually, our side votes with the United States but we're not just a rubber stamp for the United States. We felt the Marshall Islands should stand up as a sovereign nation in this humanitarian effort. We wanted to associate the Marshall Islands with the rest of the world in an effort to rid the world of weapons that don't distinguish between civilians or military personnel."
The Marshall Islands and FSM are locked into US policy even on issues unrelated to Pacific security, such as resolutions on Israel in the United Nations. As FSM Compact negotiator Asterio Takesy told Congress during October 1998 testimony:
"We are keenly aware that strategic and security considerations are the cornerstone of our free association relationship with the United States. Thus, we have worked hard to give more than just lip service to the responsibilities we assumed in the Compact. The FSM has been strictly supportive of United States defense and security policy in the region, such as, for example, by refraining from joining its neighboring island countries in the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (SPNFZ), and by refraining from signing the Convention against Land Mines. Our consistent support for the State of Israel, while motivated in part by internal considerations, has also been with an eye toward supporting US policy in this important security area."
But the people of the Marshall Islands have concerns over security as well. The RMI government is seeking to renegotiate compensation allocated for the effects of the 67 US nuclear tests conducted at Enewetak and Bikini Atolls between 1946-58. Since 1995, the US Government has released previously classified documents, which show that 20 out of 22 populated atolls in the Marshall Islands were affected by radioactive fallout from these tests, rather than the four atolls previously recognised as affected by the US government.
Foreign Minister Muller also says that United States has failed to deliver on a promised $20 million development fund to compensate for provisions of the Compact unilaterally removed in 1983. RMI has only received $2 million of these funds. Originally under the Compact, RMI citizens were to get visa-free entry to United States to live and work. Now, after US officials changed the law, Marshallese must get work authorisation approvals, which is a lengthy and bureaucratic procedure.
The Marshall Islands government hopes that the United States will agree to extend the Compact for a period of more than 15 years, and provide incentives for US investment. While US officials have extensive criticisms of government corruption and mismanagement in the Marshall Islands, the US government rarely acknowledges the colonial history of the trusteeship relationship that distorts the economics of the country. From 1945 until 1968, outsiders could not visit the Marshall Islands without getting permission from the US Navy. No foreign investment was allowed in the islands until 1973.
As with other Pacific island countries, the RMI has been undergoing "structural adjustment" through a Public Sector Reform Program (PSRP). This involves the privatisation of government owned assets, through the Private Sector Unit (PSU) of the Office of the President. Under the PSRP there has been amalgamation of ministries, a 27% reduction in the number of government employees since January 1996, and a public sector wage freeze (Neighbouring FSM has also been under an IMF structural adjustment program since 1995).
Former Foreign Minister Muller says large Asian Development Bank (ADB) loans pushed by the United States have threatened the RMI economy: "The large scale of the loans, the enormous debt burden the Marshall Islands is accruing and the recommendations to rapidly reduce our public sector destabilises the Marshall Islands economic security." In early 1999, the ADB refused to release funds until the RMI government pushed through legislation to further cut back the number of government employees.
With a limited resource base, the RMI government has looked at other methods to raise finance, including several proposals over the last decade to store nuclear waste in the Marshall Islands. There have been persistent attempts by Taipower (the state-run nuclear agency in Taiwan) to establish a waste dump on islands contaminated by nuclear testing in the 1940s and 1950s. Former President Kabua declared a freeze on the nuclear waste plan in 1997, but a proposed "feasibility study" suggested that the plans were still on the table. In December 1998, the RMI government issued a statement stating that no nuclear waste could be imported into the Marshall Islands. The statement came in response to fears that the Taiwanese plan could be revived after the Marshall Islands established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in November 1998 (in response, the People’s Republic of China broke diplomatic relations with the Marshall Islands and closed its embassy in Majuro).
Difficulties in US-Chinese relations have been compounded by the construction of a Chinese satellite-tracking base at Bonriki on the island of Tarawa in the neighbouring Micronesian nation of Kiribati. The Chinese Space Telemetry, Tracking and Command Station - the first built outside China - was constructed in 1997, after China and Kiribati signed an agreement for the tracking station in September 1996. In spite of claims that the station is used for monitoring Kwajalein Missile Range, both Governments have stated that the facility is used for monitoring China’s civilian satellite launch program, with China’s Ambassador to Kiribati denouncing the spying allegations as "fabricated lies".
Theatre Missile Defence and Asia
The US administration also announced steps to advance the Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) program, which is designed to protect US troops and their allies in the field against medium- and short-range missiles. TMD programs are gaining momentum across the Asia-Pacific, provoking angry responses from China.
The United States and Japanese governments signed a memorandum of understanding on 16 August 1999 for joint research on a theatre missile defense system. The joint research project, looking at a sea-based anti-ballistic missile, is expected to cost between $435 million and $522 million over six years. The United States hopes to draw on Japanese funding and technology research to reduce the massive costs of BDM systems.
Among other concerns related to the US-Japan TMD should it be deployed is that it may require some sort of joint command. Japan's constitutional constraints banning military operations make the possibility of a joint command a highly sensitive issue in Japan.
After North Korea fired a Taepo Dong missile over Japan in August 1998, TMD programs were given a major boost. However, North Korea recently agreed to halt its missile flight test program while negotiating with the United States (the US and Japanese governments offered economic aid in exchange for North Korea imposing a moratorium on testing). However in spite of the US focus on North Korea as a "rogue" state and major missile threat, it has not tested a missile capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead.
South Korea claims to have no interest in joining the US-Japan TMD system. President Kim Dae-jung has said that the development of a missile system should consider the regional interests of the whole Northeast Asia and should not cause misunderstandings among countries in the region.
Though declining to be part of the US-Japan TMD, South Korea appears to be developing an independent missile force to deter North Korea, believing a deterrent force might be more useful than TMD in preventing an attack from the North. On 10 April 1999, South Korea test-fired a surface-to-surface missile with a potential range of 300 kilometres. In November 1999, the Pentagon announced that South Korea had asked to buy 616 Patriot missiles and 14 Patriot firing units, 14 engagement radars and 76 launching stations for anti-missiles. According to the Pentagon: "The proposed sale will enhance the Republic of Korea's defensive capability against hostile neighbors, lessening the burden on the United States."
Within days after the announcement of the August 1999 agreement on TMD between the United States and Japan, Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui said he wanted to see the proposed TMD project cover Taiwan in order to "cope with the current situation."
The Taiwan Defense Ministry plans to spend about $9 billion in the next decade to develop a low-altitude defense system consisting of radar warning systems, command centres and missile launch bases. This "shield" would, in theory, provide missile protection for 70 percent of Taiwan against attacks from the People’s Republic of China.. The military-run Chungsan Institute of Science and Technology is scheduled to conduct tests in 2000 of "low-level anti-attack ballistic missile systems" that it has been developing for deployment in 2005.
In April 1999, under heavy congressional coercion, the Clinton administration agreed in principle to the sale of an early-warning radar system to Taiwan in accord with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which stipulates that the United States may provide arms to Taiwan of a 'defensive nature'. Although the radar system does not constitute a full-blown operational TMD link, the sale represents a deliberate step towards bringing Taiwan under a regional TMD umbrella.
In October 1999, the Chairman of the US International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific disclosed the contents of this year's US arms sales package for Taiwan included early-warning radar to detect PRC missile launches, new and upgraded Patriot 3 anti-missile batteries, and new equipment intended to ensure the technological superiority of the Taiwanese airforce over its PRC counterpart. The United States is also considering the possible sales to Taiwan of P-3 Orion sub hunter aircraft and advanced Aegis battle-management radar for battleships.
The Far Eastern Economic Review notes: "US Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms has proposed a resolution to increase advanced military coordination with Taiwan. By connecting Taiwan with US reconnaissance satellites, it would put them in the feedback loop to US Aegis cruisers, and hence, into the greater TMD architecture ... China has deep fears about TMD for both Taiwan and Japan. The prospect directly undermines the credibility and effectiveness of China's strategic and political deterrent of its missile forces. In the case of Taiwan, Beijing fears inclusion in TMD could fan independence aspirations ... China has warned that TMD development and deployment would undermine its cooperation in efforts to control nuclear development and missile proliferation."
Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Command has recommended the deployment of regional missile defenses to protect US troops and allies in the Pacific from missile attacks. He also stated that the US should help Taiwan build missile defenses. In November 1999, US State Department spokesperson James Rubin said that the United States maintains "an active dialogue" with the Taiwan government on TMD; however, specific sales of effective missile defense are "premature."
Throughout 1999, senior officials of the People’s Republic of China have spoken out against the proposed US deployment of NMD and TMD, especially if Taiwan is involved.
In March 1999 Foreign Minister Tang Juaxuan stated that if any country intends to include Taiwan in TMD, it would be tantamount to an encroachment on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and would be an obstacle to reunification. The same month, Wang Daohan, the PRC's chief negotiator on Taiwan, strongly warned that inclusion of Taiwan in TMD would provoke an arms race, saying: "That will completely disrupt the current world situation and instead a new Cold War will appear." He said the PRC would consider such a move as the establishment of a military alliance between the United States and Taiwan.
The director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Department of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sha Zukang, reiterated the position that TMD will "only poison the atmosphere, undermine the conditions necessary for nuclear disarmament and breed a potential danger of an arms race." Sha Zukang also said: "The strategic balance will be broken and the international strategic situation might regress to its 1950s position if the United States successfully develops the NMD and TMD systems." Du Qenqi also argues that the American-Japanese co-operation in development of TMD will further enhance the military power of Japan and will stimulate the further expansion of the ambition of a few Japanese to take the road of militarism again."
China already perceives that US efforts to build a missile defense are intended to weaken the Chinese deterrent. China’s current nuclear arsenal is around 20 long-range, single warhead missiles. However, it is in a slow modernisation program to build longer-range missiles with multiple warheads. China would likely react to US deployment of a missile defense system by increasing the both the size of its arsenal and the pace of its improvements. Evidence of China’s response to US talk of abrogating the ABM Treaty is already developing, with Reuters reporting on 25 October 1999 that China recently added $9.7 billion to its defense budget to improve its nuclear arsenal.
China is opposed to NMD as well as TMD: "China's military has noticed that the first NMD antimissile base, proposed for Alaska to intercept a potential future threat from North Korea, is also positioned to shield against China's small intercontinental missile force", accounting for China's skepticism of US claims that the system is directed solely at "rogue" states.
Impact on nuclear disarmament
Arms control critics are opposed to the NMD program for a number of reasons:
The US Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on 10 October 1999 was a serious rejection of the multilateral security philosophy of the past 40 years. It was a clear statement that US politicians see rearmament as a priority. They seek more nuclear weapons in US hands, not fewer, with an end to the international framework embodied in the CTBT.
The New York Times states: "The greatest dangers lie in South Asia, especially after this week's military coup in Pakistan. It will be much harder now for the United States to persuade both India and Pakistan to sign a test ban treaty that the Senate has refused to ratify ... The Senate vote will also complicate America's nuclear diplomacy with China, which has signed the treaty and is observing a voluntary moratorium on testing ... China may be tempted to test new [bomb] designs if it begins to seem as if the treaty will never be ratified. There is also a greater risk that a future Russian government might feel tempted to conduct secret underground nuclear tests now that plans for establishing the treaty's worldwide network of monitoring stations and its provisions for on-site inspections have been indefinitely postponed."
The next agreement under assault is the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Republican Presidential front-runner George W. Bush has made a missile defense system the centerpiece of a plan to "redefine war on our terms" and claims he would be willing to tear up the ABM Treaty in order to deploy such a system.
The US government is urging Russia to amend the ABM Treaty, which bars a missile defence system covering the entire country (under the treaty, only one site is allowed for limited defensive systems). The Clinton Administration is currently discussing modifications to the ABM Treaty with Russia, which would allow the United States to deploy a "limited" national missile defense. Both Clinton Administration and Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the ABM Treaty remains the "cornerstone of strategic stability." To date, Russia has opposed all changes to the ABM Treaty and declared that US withdrawal from it or insistence on changes would end the START process that is reducing strategic nuclear arsenals. This would leave Russia with 6,000 warheads that could hit the United States, many ready for launch within 15 minutes of a decision to attack.
'To ensure that an American missile defense could be overwhelmed, Russia would keep as many nuclear warheads on hair-trigger, launch-on-warning as possible. This would increase the risk of an accidental or unauthorised Russian launch, arguably already the greatest threat to US national survival. ... the most effective protection against nuclear weapons is to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime in cooperation with other like-minded nations"
The risk of nonproliferation regimes being undermined is far greater than a missile attack from a so-called rogue state. Roelf Ekeus, Sweden's ambassador to the United States and former head of the UN Special Commission for arms inspections in Iraq has warned: "As missile defence gathers speed, what is the political impact? It gives the impression that the United States is settling down to live with nuclear weapons. The risk is that more and more [countries] just give up the hope [of nonproliferation], which I think is the greater threat."
In November 1999, Russia and China introduced a United Nations resolution demanding strict compliance with the ABM treaty. Signalling strong opposition to US efforts to change the treaty, the resolution recognises the historic role of the ABM Treaty "as the cornerstone for maintaining international peace and security and strategic stability," and reaffirms "its continued validity and relevance, especially in the current international situation." The resolution was adopted on 5 November 1999 in the General Assembly with a vote of 54 to 4 with 73 abstentions. The four "no" votes were from the United States, Latvia, Israel and the Federated States of Micronesia.
China congratulated the UN for endorsing the resolution saying: "In recent years, some countries have made great efforts to develop national missile defense plans to strive for their own absolute security and short-term strategic advantages. These countries have proposed changing the ABM Treaty and even threatened to withdraw from it. These actions would damage strategic balance and stability, damage the progress of nuclear disarmament, shake the foundation of nuclear non-proliferation and even cause a new nuclear arms race, including in outer space"
In November, 138 nations also voted in the United Nations General Assembly to reaffirm the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, especially the provision that space "be for peaceful purposes" (The United States and Israel abstained during the vote).
This briefing paper is compiled from information published by the Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (BMDO), the Pacific Campaign for Disarmament and Security (PCDS), the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the Marshall Islands Journal and the Disarmament Clearinghouse. Thanks for their permission to reprint material. First edition COPYRIGHT February 2000.
Further information on the militarisation of space can be found at the website of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (www.globenet.free-online.co.uk).
Link to PMA's index page on Star Wars and Weapons in Space.