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  • Author: Greg Thielmann
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Growing concerns about third-country nuclear threats led the United States to withdraw from the ABM Treaty’s constraints on the size and scope of ballistic missile defense arsenals in 2002. Inaccurate and alarmist projections of “rogue state” ICBM threats were critical in winning support for the decision to withdraw from the treaty and to sustain the multi-billion dollar annual price tag for developing, deploying, and expanding strategic missile defenses. But 18 years after Washington abandoned the treaty, North Korea is the only rogue state that could pose a near-term nuclear threat against the American homeland—and U.S. missile defense interceptors and radars have not even delivered high confidence of being able to protect against this threat. Meanwhile, the absence of limits on U.S. strategic missile defenses and prudent, worst-case concerns in Moscow and Beijing about their future expansion are fueling resistance to additional nuclear arms reductions and stability measures. The end result is that the exponential threats posed by Russia and China are getting worse and the chances of a disastrous nuclear arms race are increasing. This analysis argues that the nuclear threat confronting the United States is multilateral, three-dimensional, and interrelated. Unless the United States acknowledges the role of missile defenses in this complicated reality, it will not be able to realize the full benefits that arms control offers.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, North America, 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: Sara Z. Kutchesfahani
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes China’s words and actions regarding the Nuclear Security Summits to better understand what Chinese leadership on nuclear security could look like in the future. It finds that China accomplished the many things it said it would do during the summit process. The paper also explores how China’s policy and actions in other nuclear arenas could be paired with Chinese nuclear security policy to form a coherent agenda for nuclear risk reduction writ large. Consequently, the paper addresses how China doing as it says and does – per nuclear security – may be used as a way in which to inform its future nuclear security roles and responsibilities. In particular, it assesses China’s opportunities to assume a leadership role within this crucial international security issue area, especially at a time where U.S. leadership has waned.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Policy-makers, scholars, and analysts disagree about whether North Korea will take any meaningful denuclearization steps after its leader Kim Jong Un met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018. Many believe that the breakdowns of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the Six Party Talks process in the 2000s show that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program cannot be constrained through cooperation. According to this view, Pyongyang violated its previous commitments once it received economic and political benefits, and it will do so again. The underlying assumption is that Washington was fully implementing its own commitments until Pyongyang broke the deal. But is this true? This paper discusses three key findings drawn from an analysis of U.S. implementation of past denuclearization agreements with North Korea. The first is that the United Stated did not always follow through with its cooperative commitments because of domestic political constraints, even when North Korea was fulfilling its commitments. This makes it difficult to determine whether North Korea ultimately did not honor its obligations because it never intended to or because it was responding to U.S. actions. The second is that some parts of past deals were more susceptible than others to being undercut by domestic opposition because they received insufficient political attention. The third is that such domestic interference could be minimized by obtaining the widest possible coalition of domestic support from the negotiation stage. The roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization is unclear, as the Singapore summit did not determine concrete steps toward that goal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in early July also did not yield specifics such as the scope and timeline of denuclearization. But based on the findings from past agreements, this paper argues that the only way for the United States to find out if engagement will work this time is to test North Korea’s intentions by carrying out Washington’s own cooperative commitments more consistently than in the past.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Jaganath Sankaran
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: The United States and Japan are jointly developing and deploying an integrated advanced regional missile defense system meant to counter threats from North Korea. North Korea possesses a large and diversified arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles that could strike Japanese cities and military bases in the event of a crisis and cause measurable damage. The missile defense system currently in place provides strong kinematic defensive coverage over Japanese territory. However, in general, the offense enjoys a strong cost advantage. It is impractical to deploy as many defensive interceptors as there are offensive missiles, which, in turn, limits the efficiency of missile defenses. It should be understood that regional missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific are neither capable nor expected to provide 100% defense. Rather, their goal is to provide sufficient capability to bolster deterrence and, should deterrence fail, to provide enough defense in the initial stages of a crisis to protect vital military assets. Additionally, U.S. and Japanese forces apparently also need to develop a better command and control architecture to operate the Asia-Pacific regional missile defense system. Finally, while the system is meant to defend only against regional threats, China has argued that the system might in the future be able to intercept Chinese ICBMs, thereby diluting its strategic deterrent against the United States. Maintaining effective defenses against North Korea while reassuring China will be one of the major challenges the U.S. and Japan face in their missile defense endeavor.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea