Proliferation and the U.S. Alliances in Northeast Asia

Working Papers

Published By

Shorenstein APARC, page(s): 20

September 1997

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This APARC discussion series clearly recognizes that the international and regional condi- tions of the post–Cold War era raise new and vexing questions about the future of the United States and its alliance relations in Northeast Asia. Today I would like to raise and begin to analyze a specific subset of questions related to proliferation, which I believe have a direct bearing on the future security situation in the region—and, more importantly for us, the U.S. alliances there. I do not think that this subject receives sustained analysis, so I would like to try to initiate that process. I am at the outset of putting this research together and welcome the opportunity to hear your thoughts and criticisms as the study evolves.

In this presentation, I take a preliminary look at how issues of proliferation affect the present and future disposition of U.S. alliances in Northeast Asia. In particular, I hope to answer three questions. First, how do issues of proliferation either weaken or strengthen U.S. relations with its allies in Northeast Asia? Second, how do issues of proliferation affect the overall security situation there? And third, how does the security situation, in turn, shape the rationale or justification for continued U.S. alliance presence in the region? For this presenta- tion, when I speak of proliferation I generally refer to the spread of nuclear, missile, and advanced conventional weapon capabilities. I will not address issues related to chemical and biological weapons, although I do believe that these are a concern. Such a definition obviously casts a rather wide net, and in a presentation such as this at a relatively early stage of the research, I want to keep my focus relatively narrow. Thus, I will not address what I consider global issues of nonproliferation, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Rather, I want to focus more narrowly on issues of specific relevance to Northeast Asia.

In trying to keep this focus narrow, then, I will proceed in four steps. First, I wish to briefly consider the contemporary trends of proliferation, around the globe and regionally, which have a bearing on the security situation in Northeast Asia. Second, I want to discuss three types of proliferation concerns and show how they intersect and interact with U.S. alliance relations. The first is nuclear proliferation, and here I would like to look at alliance relations in the context of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, or KEDO. On the issue of the proliferation of theater missile defenses (TMD), I want to look specifically at the development of these capabilities by South Korea and Japan. And third, on the issue of ballistic missile proliferation, I would like to consider the efforts by South Korea to develop a more powerful ballistic missile force. In the third part of the talk, I would like to address how these and other proliferation issues affect relations with China, because future U.S. alliance relations will be shaped in no small measure by Chinese reactions to them. In the fourth and concluding section of the talk, I will try to look ahead and assess how these several developments affect relations between the United States and its allies in Northeast Asia; how they influence security in the region; and how U.S. alliance relations in Northeast Asia might be readjusted in the future so that cooperation and nonproliferation can help justify a continued U.S. presence in the region, simultaneously contributing to long-term regional confidence and stability.

Published as part of the "America's Alliances with Japan and Korea in a Changing Northeast Asia" Research Project.

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