The ICAS Lectures
The Pacific and Emerging Issues
Peter R. Huessy
ICAS Fall Symposium
October 20, 2015 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM
The Heritage Foundation Allison Auditorium
214 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington DC 20002
Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
Biographic sketch & Links: Peter R. Huessy
The Pacific and Emerging Issues
Peter R. Huessy
Twin Pacific and European Missile Defense Issues
Are America and its allies finally standing up for international agreed upon rules of
the road and opposing Russian and Chinese hegemony?
Last month's American led naval exercise off Tokyo Bay with the USS Ronald
Reagan and the JS Izumo, featured the largest Japanese warship built since WW II.
In addition, the first serving Japanese prime minister landed on a US aircraft
carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan. And warships from France, Australia, India and
South Korea also took part in the naval exercise.
During the exercise the Japanese Prime Minister explained: "By highly hoisting the
flag of 'proactive pacifism,' I'm determined to contribute more than ever to world
peace and prosperity", a reference to the passage of legislation by the Japanese
government that modifies Japan's defense posture to allow the Japanese Self
Defense Forces (JSDF) to come to the aid of an ally under fire. Such a new policy
is considered a significant departure from Japan's pacifist constitution according to
an analysis by the US Naval Institute.
This was the beginning of a "military-diplomatic" signal to China, as subsequently,
the United States sailed an American navy warship within 12 miles of island
building by the Chinese in the East China Sea. According to one news report, a
U.S. defense official told CNN that the destroyer USS Lassen "conducted a transit"
within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands. China has since flown
armed naval aircraft over the area in what they termed a "training exercise".
This action by the United States is important, although the obvious question then is
"Ok, what do we do next?" US defense officials have noted they will continue to
send naval vessels through the area to establish an ongoing presence asserting
freedom of navigation and challenging the Chinese exclusive claim to the region.
However, this exercise by the United States should be part of a broader effort to
deal with serial aggression by some particularly bad nation-state actors, not just
China. Just recently, the Dutch Safety Board concluded the Malaysian Flight 17
was destroyed and its 298 passengers killed by a Russian made Buk missile fired
from territory controlled by Russian backed terrorists in Ukraine.
As the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted October 14, 2015, "Western leaders who
aren't prepared to uphold world order against reckless men like Mr. Putin had
better get ready for an ever-expanding no fly zone—and future Flight 17s."
The two issues in Ukraine and the South China Sea are related.
As David Feith also of the WSJ writes, China appears to be creating its own "no
sail zone" in the South China Sea. The US Navy patrols took place some 700 miles
from China in the South China Sea between Malaysia, the Philippines and
Vietnam. China attacked the US saying such patrols violated China's "territorial
David Feith further notes that China is in short seeking to conquer one of the
world's most important international waterways where $5 trillion in trade passes
through an area of 1.35 million square miles.
Does China sees the whole area as a Chinese lake in which it will or will not give
people permission to operate? Feith says yes, China apparently does.
However, as Feith explains, most observers believe China has no historical right to
this area and its claims are legally without merit. China's maps of the region
submitted to the United Nations in 2009 in support of its territorial claims had
English names for the various territories. And ironically, the identical map had
been used by the former Nationalist Chinese government in a challenge to similar
geographic claims from Imperial Japan. So claims of ancient Chinese ownership of
the area are obviously a fiction.
But China's "macro" aggressions in the South China Sea are not dissimilar to
China's assertion of similar "control" or "say so" over the actions of other key US
allies in the Pacific. For example, South Korea is contemplating allowing the
deployment of the American THAAD ballistic missile defense technology to
defend against North Korean missile and rocket threats.
But China loudly asserts that the United States and South Korea, by deploying
such missile defense technology, are both undermining China's deterrent and
should stop such deployments. China implies that the THAAD missile batteries
and their associated radars would, for example, give the US or ROK the ability to
shoot down Chinese ICBMs.
Now it is true the THAAD technology would defend South Korean from missile
launches from North Korea. But THAAD has no ability to interfere with China's
strategic nuclear deterrent associated with deterring other nuclear armed powers
such as the United States.
Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage
Foundation, said South Korea should deploy THAAD in order to defend against
North Korea's nuclear threat.
But other American analysts do not support such joint work. At a recent Carnegie
Endowment meeting opponents of missile defense complained THAAD would
undermine China's security and harm US-Chinese relations. This was based on the
claim that a South Korean based THAAD missile deployment and associated
AN/TPY-2 radar would be able to shoot down Chinese missiles aimed at the
United States and not just North Korean missiles aimed at South Korea.
This new criticism included a claim that US officials have deliberately failed to
inform the South Korean government about the capability of the American
THAAD missile defense technology. And that significant new capability is
supposedly contained in the radars (but not the interceptors) that are associated
with the potential deployment of the THAAD system.
This new capability, say the critics, is the THAAD radars ability to see into
Chinese territory, (they can). Does this mean THAAD is part of an overseas
forward-deployed but surreptitiously planned defense of American territory from
Chinese missile launches and not just a potential defense of South Korea?
While the associated radars can indeed pick-up Chinese rocket launches some
hundreds of kilometers from Korea, the THAAD interceptors cannot intercept a
Chinese ICBM fired toward the United States. Its range is far too short. As my
colleague Rick Fisher, the Senior Fellow in Asian Military Affairs at the
International Strategy and Assessment Center explained, "THAAD does have
capability against Chinese or North Korean MRBMs launched
toward South Korea" but not against Chinese missiles launched
north over the polar region toward the United States.
Fisher explains what is really motivating the Chinese. "It is likely China is really
angry about the range of the AN/TPY-2 radar. In an extreme case, one placed on
the Korean island of Cheju Do would be able to see roughly half of the Chinese
province of Fujian, and major Chinese short range ballistic missiles launched at
Taiwan." But THAAD interceptors based in Korea have no possible way of
intercepting Chinese missiles launched from China toward Taiwan.
But as THAAD would deepen US benefits from its South Korean alliance, and
elements of the system would protect against North Korea, of course China will
oppose such activity simply because it wishes to exercise hegemony over the
eastern Pacific and continue its capability—and that of its ally North Korea--to
threaten the region with missiles—unimpeded.
Trying to block THAAD is also a great way for China to create acrimony in Seoul
toward the USA. Never mind that China is responsible—in large part-- for making
North Korea a nuclear missile threat. Or that threatened nuclear strikes from North
Korea or China against the US would also inhibit the US ability to defend South
The Chinese strategy is taking a page out of the Russia playbook on Europe. For at
least the past 15 years, Russia has fought the deployment of missile defenses in
Europe. And specifically for the past six years, Russia has opposed the US
program of a European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to missile defense,
claiming it would seriously complicate US-Russian relations.
How would it do so? Russia claims the American missile defense deployments in
Europe would be able to shoot down Russian missiles aimed at the United States,
and thus undermine its security, the mirror argument of the Chinese claim about
our potential Korean based missile defense deployments.
In fact, the Russian protestations over these NATO endorsed missile defense plans
for the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania are just as bogus as the Chinese
Computer analysis and simulated tests have shown without question the missile
defense interceptors in Europe cannot intercept Russian ICBMs aimed at the
United States because the interceptors are (1) too slow and (2) by the time they see
the Russian missile launches the interceptors will be chasing a much faster missile
that has many minutes head start. And at 6-8 kilometers per second speed, the
Russian ICBMs can go much farther in the same period of time than a US missile
defense interceptor with a speed of around 3 kilometers per second.
It's simple math. And the Russians know this as they have acknowledged as such
in conversations with American missile defense experts.
My own view is that similar to EPAA, there should be no delay in a THAAD
deployment in South Korea if the government in Seoul wishes to move forward.
Critics of a THAAD and a complimentary radar deployment are arguing—however
unintentional-- for the right for China (and North Korea) to launch unimpeded
nuclear strikes against South Korea. How is any of this in South Korea's interest?
Or that of the United States?
Just as in Europe, where Russia seeks an unimpeded right to threaten missile
strikes, China is seeking the same capability to do so in the Western Pacific. Sound
and beneficial international rules of the road dictate otherwise. US missile defense
policy should reflect that truth.
This page last updated November 4, 2015 jdb