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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Japanese Missile Defense, Asian Missiles and Deterrence

Reuters has a story today reporting that Japan is likely soon to announce its intended deployment of missile defenses. It looks like Japan will be buying off-the-shelf US technology, which basically means it doesn't yet work very well:
Under a Defense Ministry plan, Japan would spend $4.62 billion from fiscal 2004/05 to 2007/08 to buy a two-stage system developed by the United States, Mainichi said.
Actually, the article says the Japanese are going to deploy the system that works on Aegis destroyers (as well as Patriots), so the technology is more promising than the fixed, land-based systems the US is planning to deploy in Alaska. It will be fully deployed in 2011-2012.

While the Japanese say these defenses are designed to stop North Korean missiles, they will also (if they work) stop Chinese missiles.

The Chinese are not likely to be happy about losing their deterrent (the US worries about Chinese missiles capable of hitting US forces at Okinawa), and will likely respond by increasing offensive missiles.

It's a simple recipe for a costly missile arms race in Asia. So says Axel Berkofsky, PhD, of the European Institute for Asian Studies.
A strong opponent of joint US-Japanese missile-defense projects, China is believed to have increased the number of missiles by 75 per year in an attempt to discourage the United States and Japan from working on a missile-defense system eventually unable to deal with the growing number of Chinese missiles. The opposite is the case, of course. The more the number of Chinese missiles grows, the more the US and Japan want to develop and deploy the system.

This looks like the beginning of a new arms race in East Asia to Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, who met with his Japanese counterpart Shigeru Ishiba in Beijing last week. Missile defense, he complained, will lead to a new escalation in Japan's defense spending. And Cao certainly knows about rising military spending, given that China's defense budget has seen two-digit growth per year over at least the past decade.
With all the focus on Iraq, little attention is directed at China these days. But foreign policy wonks might want to note that the neocons from the Project for a New American Century (as well as Condi Rice in the 2000 Foreign Affairs piece) focused a great deal of hostile attention on China.

This is one of those issues that divides academics -- even on the same faculty.

Update: The BBC reports that Australia is commiting to missile defense too.

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