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Missile Defense Review: A Call for an Arms Race

Jan 30, 2019
  • Fan Gaoyue

    Guest Professor at Sichuan University, Former Chief Specialist at PLA Academy of Military Science

The US released its Missile Defense Review (MDR) on January 17, 2019. This has aroused much concern in the international community.

MDR tries to Justify the US Layered Missile Defense System

The MDR says  “Potential adversaries…are expanding their missile capabilities in three different directions simultaneously: increasing the capabilities of their existing missile systems; adding new and unprecedented types of missile capabilities to their arsenals; and, integrating offensive missiles ever more thoroughly into their coercive threats, military exercises, and war planning.” Who are the potential adversaries? The MDR lists North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China. Are they really potential adversaries of the US?  I think it is the US who decides what they are. If the US treats them as potential adversaries, they will be potential adversaries; if the US treats them as cooperative partners, they will be cooperative partners. At present the US has the largest economy (2018 GDP about $20.51 trillion), the largest defense budget (2019 national defense budget $716.3 billion, more than the next nine countries combined) and the largest arsenal (about 19,000 nuclear warheads) in the world and is much stronger than any of them. How could any of them choose to be an adversary of the US if they are not threatened by the US? The US-ROK joint military exercises in the Korean Peninsula, the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal and sanctions against Iran, NATO’s eastward expansion and the US military operations in the Black Sea, and the US military operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, are just a few examples. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea develop their missile capabilities just for the purpose of defense. The MDR justification for US layered missile defense system is groundless and can’t hold water.

What Is the US Going to Do?

Under the excuse of defending against missile threats, the US is going to build “an integrated, layered ballistic missile defense architecture that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads before they can reach their targets.” To realize this aspiration the US will: (1) Formally withdraw from the INF Treaty on February 2, 2019 to get rid of the limits for its missile development; (2) increase the national defense budget in the years to come; (3) increase investments in new technologies and concepts, adapt existing weapons systems to field new capabilities and expand US defensive capabilities to new domains; (4) equip Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) with an advanced booster and a more capable Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), increase deployed GBIs from 44 to 64, track current and emerging cruise missile and Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) threats and improve the defense against cruise missiles for homeland defense; (5) plan and conduct active missile defense and attack operations employing the full range of US, allied and partner capabilities, including Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis Sea-based Missile Defense, Aegis Ashore, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) for regional and transregional missile defense; (6) expand opportunities for collaboration with its allies and partners on missile defense programs, deepen interoperability in missile defense systems and operations, expand burden sharing among the US and its allies and partners, and limit the proliferation of advanced offensive missile technologies and components. Thus the US can “maintain and improve an effective, robust layered missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States, allies, deployed forces, and capabilities against the developing and increasingly complex ballistic missile threat” and enjoy overwhelming military superiority over its adversaries. The purpose of US missile defense is to lure its potential adversaries to enter into an arms race which could result in economic and regime collapse as it did with the former Soviet Union and consolidate its relations with its allies and partners which will bind them to its war chariot more tightly.

What Might Be the Reactions of Countries Concerned?

The countries concerned will have to react to US missile defense buildups and attack operations. The so-called “potential adversary” countries will have to invest more resources in speeding up their missile development, especially the development of offensive missiles and point missile defense so as to achieve strategic deterrence balance between them and the US, and might be less cooperative in international affairs like North Korea. US allies like Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the other NATO members will have to meet the US requirements to build layered global and regional missile defense architecture by purchasing US missile systems and providing missile sites for their deployment. US partners such as Singapore, Vietnam and India will have to cooperate with the US in missile defense building one way or another according to their own national interests and security demands. Since all countries concerned with missile defense and offense long to strengthen their missile capabilities, they will have to increase their national defense budgets for missile development and procurement, thus starting an arms race.

At the moment when the US is carrying out an America First strategy and waging a trade war against China and the world, when world economic growth is slowing down and when fundamental changes are taking place in China-US relations, the 2019 MDR is a call for an arms race, which is detrimental to world peace, stability, cooperation, and development and should be resolutely rejected.

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