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  • Author: Fiona S. Cunningham, M. Taylor Fravel
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Chinese views of nuclear escalation are key to assessing the potential for nuclear escalation in a crisis or armed conflict between the United States and China, but they have not been examined systematically. A review of original Chinese-language sources and interviews with members of China's strategic community suggest that China is skeptical that nuclear escalation could be controlled once nuclear weapons are used and, thus, leaders would be restrained from pursuing even limited use. These views are reflected in China's nuclear operational doctrine (which outlines plans for retaliatory strikes only and lacks any clear plans for limited nuclear use) and its force structure (which lacks tactical nuclear weapons). The long-standing decoupling of Chinese nuclear and conventional strategy, organizational biases within China's strategic community, and the availability of space, cyber, and conventional missile weapons as alternative sources of strategic leverage best explain Chinese views toward nuclear escalation. China's confidence that a U.S.-China conflict would not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons may hamper its ability to identify nuclear escalation risks in such a scenario. Meanwhile, U.S. scholars and policymakers emphasize the risk of inadvertent escalation in a conflict with China, but they are more confident than their Chinese counterparts that the use of nuclear weapons could remain limited. When combined, these contrasting views could create pressure for a U.S.-China conflict to escalate rapidly into an unlimited nuclear war.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, International Security, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Elizabeth N. Saunders
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: When and how do domestic politics influence a state's nuclear choices? Recent scholarship on nuclear security develops many domestic-political explanations for different nuclear decisions. These explanations are partly the result of two welcome trends: first, scholars have expanded the nuclear timeline, examining state behavior before and after nuclear proliferation; and second, scholars have moved beyond blunt distinctions between democracies and autocracies to more fine-grained understandings of domestic constraints. But without linkages between them, new domestic-political findings could be dismissed as a laundry list of factors that do not explain significant variation in nuclear decisions. This review essay assesses recent research on domestic politics and nuclear security, and develops a framework that illuminates when and how domestic-political mechanisms are likely to affect nuclear choices. In contrast to most previous domestic arguments, many of the newer domestic-political mechanisms posited in the literature are in some way top-down; that is, they show leaders deliberately maintaining or loosening control over nuclear choices. Two dimensions govern the extent and nature of domestic-political influence on nuclear choices: the degree of threat uncertainty and the costs and benefits to leaders of expanding the circle of domestic actors involved in a nuclear decision. The framework developed in this review essay helps make sense of several cases explored in the recent nuclear security literature. It also has implications for understanding when and how domestic-political arguments might diverge from the predictions of security-based analyses.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, International Security, Domestic politics, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Iran, North Korea
  • Author: Eliza Gheorghe
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The evolution of the nuclear market explains why there are only nine members of the nuclear club, not twenty-five or more, as some analysts predicted. In the absence of a supplier cartel that can regulate nuclear transfers, the more suppliers there are, the more intense their competition will be, as they vie for market share. This commercial rivalry makes it easier for nuclear technology to spread, because buyers can play suppliers off against each other. The ensuing transfers help countries either acquire nuclear weapons or become hedgers. The great powers (China, Russia, and the United States) seek to thwart proliferation by limiting transfers and putting safeguards on potentially dangerous nuclear technologies. Their success depends on two structural factors: the global distribution of power and the intensity of the security rivalry among them. Thwarters are most likely to stem proliferation when the system is unipolar and least likely when it is multipolar. In bipolarity, their prospects fall somewhere in between. In addition, the more intense the rivalry among the great powers in bipolarity and multipolarity, the less effective they will be at curbing proliferation. Given the potential for intense security rivalry among today's great powers, the shift from unipolarity to multipolarity does not portend well for checking proliferation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation, International Relations Theory
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China
  • Author: Prakash Menon
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Fletcher Security Review
  • Institution: The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Technology often seduces potential adversaries through a promise of relief from security threats only to deceive through the inevitable action-reaction cycle. In the universe of security, technology is contestable both by technology itself and by doctrinal prescriptions and operational countermeasures. The advantage provided by new technology is mostly ephemeral in that provides the momentum for an endless cycle that is best described as chasing one’s own tail. Only political intervention through mutual understanding, doctrinal prudence, and regulating the search for operational supremacy holds potential to escape the stranglehold of the action-reaction cycle. The elusive search for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is a prime example. This paper seeks to interrogate the role of the technology-security dynamics in the context of the Sino-Indian nuclear weapon relationship. ​ The context of the Sino-Indian nuclear weapon relationship is clouded by the enhancing reach of India’s missiles[1], the evolving Chinese reaction to U.S. nuclear modernization accompanied by a shift in nuclear posture, and a shared belief in the role of nuclear weapons that is signified by No First Use (NFU) doctrine. The latter point represents political intervention while the two former signify the action-reaction cycle which is primarily a product of technology. However, both China and India must contend with nuclear powers that espouse First Use. China in dealing with the United States and Russia who are quantitatively superior nuclear powers, while India deals with Pakistan whose claims of quantitative superiority are contested. ​ In technological terms, the rise of China and the U.S. reaction resulting in contemporary geopolitical flux at the global level has impacted the evolution of China’s nuclear arsenal. The most prominent illustration of this is China’s reaction to the United States’ withdrawal from the Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty. Earlier China had eschewed development of BMD, but the United States’ quest to create BMD has caused China to attempt to develop its own BMD system as well as systems that can overcome BMD like multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and Hyper Glide Vehicles (HGVs). Similarly, India has reacted to developments in China and Pakistan by launching an indigenous BMD development program...
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations, Weapons
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, South Asia, India, Asia
  • Author: Anne Marie Brady
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: China Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: China’s military ambitions in the Arctic, and its growing strategic partnership with Russia, have rung alarm bells in many governments. In May 2019, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Defense annual report on China’s military capabilities had a section on China’s military interests in the Arctic and the possibility of Chinese submarines operating in the Arctic basin (Department of Defense, May 2019). In August 2019, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg raised concerns about what he diplomatically referred to as “China’s increased presence in the Arctic” (Reuters, August 7). From a nuclear security point of view, the Arctic is China’s vulnerable northern flank. The flight path of U.S. and Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) targeted at China transit the Arctic. Key components of the U.S. missile defense system are also located in the Arctic. Chinese submarine-based ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) operating in the Arctic could restore China’s nuclear deterrence capability (Huanqiu Ribao, October 28, 2013). China currently operates six nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and fifty diesel attack submarines, with more under construction. If Chinese nuclear-armed submarines were able to access the Arctic basin undetected, this would be a game-changer for the United States, the NATO states and their partners, and the wider Asia-Pacific (Huanqiu Ribao, April 11, 2012). China would be able to target missiles at the United States and Europe with ease; such ability would strengthen China’s military dominance in Asia and bolster China’s emerging position as a global military power.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Territorial Disputes, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, Arctic, United States of America
  • Author: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: After conducting a record number of missile and nuclear tests in 2016 and 2017, North Korea dramatically changed its policy approach and embarked on a diplomatic initiative in 2018. It announced a self-imposed halt on missile and nuclear tests and held summit meetings with the United States, China, and South Korea from spring of that year. Why did North Korea shift its policy approach? This paper evaluates four alternative explanations. The first is that the change was driven by North Korea’s security calculus. In other words, North Korea planned to achieve its security goals first before turning to diplomacy and successfully followed through with this plan. The second is that U.S. military threats forced North Korea to change its course. The third is that U.S.-led sanctions caused North Korea to shift its policy by increasing economic pain on the country. The fourth is that diplomatic initiatives by South Korea and others prompted North Korea to change its position. This paper examines the actions and statements of the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, and Russia leading up to and during this period to assess these four explanations. It concludes that military threats and economic pain did not dissuade North Korea from obtaining what it considered an adequate level of nuclear deterrence against the United States and that North Korea turned to diplomacy only after achieving its security goals. External pressure may have encouraged North Korea to speed up its efforts to develop the capacity to strike the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, the opposite of its intended effect. Diplomatic and economic pressure may have compelled Kim Jong Un to declare that North Korea had achieved its “state nuclear force” before conducting all the nuclear and ballistic missile tests needed to be fully confident that it could hit targets in the continental United States. These findings suggest that if a pressure campaign against North Korea is to achieve its intended impact, the United States has to more carefully consider how pressure would interact with North Korean policy priorities. Pressure should be applied only to pursue specific achievable goals and should be frequently assessed for its impact.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: China and the United States view each other as potential adversaries with mixed motives and divergent value systems, yet both can benefit from cooperation to reduce the risk of war, avert arms races, and prevent proliferation or terrorist access to weapons of mass destruction. The two countries have more common interests, fewer ideological differences, and greater economic interdependence than the United States and the Soviet Union had during the Cold War. In principle, arms control broadly defined, i.e., cooperation to reduce the likelihood of war, the level of destruction should war occur, the cost of military preparations, and the role of threats and use of force in international relations, could be at least as important in this century as it was in the last. In practice, though, China’s rise as a strategic power has not been matched by a corresponding increase in the kinds of cooperative agreements that helped keep the costs and risks of superpower competition from spiraling out of control. Why not? This paper argues that because China’s strategy rests on different assumptions about security and nuclear deterrence than U.S. strategy does, its ideas about arms control are different, too. China has historically put more value on broad declarations of intent, behavioral rules, and self-control, while the United States has prioritized specific quantitative limits on capabilities, detailed verification and compliance mechanisms, and operational transparency. When progress has occurred, it has not been because China finally matched the United States in some military capability, or because Chinese officials and experts “learned” to think about arms control like their American counterparts do. Rather, it has happened when Chinese leaders believed that the United States and other countries with nuclear weapons were moving toward its ideas about security cooperation--hopes that have repeatedly been disappointed. Understanding Chinese attitudes toward security cooperation has gained added importance under the Trump administration for two reasons. Trump’s national security strategy depicts China and Russia as equally capable antagonists facing the United States in a “new era of great power competition,” so the feasibility and desirability of mutually beneficial cooperation with China have become more urgent questions. The costs and risks of coercive competition will keep growing until both sides accept that they outweigh whatever benefits might accrue from trying to maximize power and freedom of action in a tightly interconnected world.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Taiwan, Asia
  • Author: Charles Knight
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Project on Defense Alternatives
  • Abstract: Most interlocutors thought that there is almost no chance that the presently stringent sanctions can force the DPRK to agree to disarm. The Chinese and the Russians generally believe that the maximal concession that sanctions can win from the DPRK is an agreement to freeze their warhead and missile development — particularly inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) development — in return for some combination of confidence-building measures, security guarantees, and progress toward political normalization. The North Koreans will not give up the nuclear weapons they already have… at least not until there is a permanent peace on the peninsula and the US is no longer understood to be an enemy.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power, Disarmament
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, North Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Charles Knight
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Project on Defense Alternatives
  • Abstract: The April 27, 2018 Inter-Korean Summit was a visibly cordial, even happy, event. At its conclusion, North and South Korea released a “Declaration of Peace, Prosperity and Unification.” This paper reviews a selection of key sections and phrases in “The Declaration” with attention to understanding their implications for the goal declared by both parties of ending “division and confrontation” on the peninsula and for addressing the overhanging issue of denuclearization. Notably, both parties strongly assert their rights as Koreans to take leadership in this task before them. Among the issues this review examines are the implications of various provisions in The Declaration for two great powers with long-standing interests in and influence on the Korean peninsula: China and the United States.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power, Disarmament
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Henry D. Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: The 13 chapters contained in this book’s two volumes were prompt-ed by a single inquiry in 2012 from the MacArthur Foundation. Was there any way, I was asked, to further clarify the economic and nonproliferation downsides if further production of civilian pluto-nium proceeded in East Asia? My initial reply was no. So much already had been done.But the more I thought about it, two things that had yet to be at-tempted emerged. The first was any serious analysis of just how bad things could get militarily if Japan and South Korea acquired nuclear weapons and North Korea and Mainland China ramped up their own production of such arms. Such nuclear proliferation had long been assumed to be undesirable but nobody had specified how such proliferation might play out militarily. Second, no serious consideration had yet been given to how East Asia might be able to prosper economically without a massive buildup of civilian nucle-ar power. Since each of the key nations in East Asia—China, the Koreas, and Japan—all would likely exploit their civilian nuclear energy infrastructure to acquire their first bombs or to make more, such inattention seemed odd.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Military Affairs, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, North Korea, Global Focus