|Chinese-North Korean Axis Heightening Need for U.S. Missile Defense Shield|
By Ashton Ellis
Thursday, January 13 2011
During his recent trip to Beijing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that North Korea is no more than five years away from being able to strike the United States with a nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missile. With diplomatic understatement, Gates warned that the rogue nation “is becoming a direct threat to the United States.”
Gates’ statement is a shift in focus by the Obama Administration. The question is does it matter?
Until now, the administration regarded North Korea primarily as a proliferation threat. To curb the regime’s ability to sell nuclear material or technology to other unfriendly groups, Obama’s foreign policy team has tried economic sanctions, public condemnation and private pressure on China to quell its neighbor – all to no avail. In his statement to the press, Gates informed his Chinese hosts that “we think there is some urgency in proceeding down the track of negotiations.” Do Gates’ comments imply a definitive change in policy towards North Korea, and, by extension, China?
“Gates’ admission is a sign of confusion” about the reality of Chinese-North Korean relations, says Brian Kennedy, President of the Claremont Institute and a missile defense expert. The U.S. government should “quit asking China for its help in dealing with North Korea because the Chinese are helping North Korea develop their nuclear capabilities.”
Echoing concern about China’s growing influence in the world, Kennedy says China’s alliances with enemies of the West mirrors a strategy used by Soviet Russia to test American resolve during the Cold War. The result is a series of proxy battles around the globe designed to create a sense of feeling hemmed in by hostile governments. Indeed, China’s close ties to Iran, Venezuela and, yes, Russia, should cause concern for American citizens and policymakers. All of these regimes are characterized by degraded notions of political freedom, with quick recourse to shows of force.
For Kennedy, the problem Gates touched on is bigger than North Korea. “We already have in place a missile defense system” to repel a land-based North Korean attack, he says. “What we need is to start building a defensive shield against land- and ship-based attacks from China.” Of course, there would be repercussions. “The Chinese would howl at a U.S. missile defense build-up, but the protest would be hypocritical. They, like the Russians, are already building their own defense shield because they want to perfect theirs as soon as possible. So should we.”
According to Kennedy, the merits of a missile defense program should appeal even to liberals. “The reality of missile defense is that it provides a way to reduce the threat of nuclear missiles. If we all have offensive nuclear forces and missile defense, countries are much more likely not to use them.” On the other hand, “if only some countries have missile defense systems, then those without such shields are vulnerable.”
Unsurprisingly, opposition to putting a fully funded missile defense system in place is primarily political. Ironically, America’s openness to dissent makes it harder for the nation to pursue a rational defense posture. Liberals are quick to accept the carping of sly dictators, blaming disruptions in diplomacy on legitimate national security programs rather than on amoral governments seeking power by force and intimidation.
And what of critics who say the program lacks reliability and is too costly? “The technology is there to have a reliable missile defense shield,” says Kennedy. “Missile defense is not the only answer, but it never has been. We rely on a combination of defensive responses including land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons, as well as a missile defense shield.”
For the time being, it doesn’t look like Secretary Gates will be mapping out installations for missile defense sites. In the wake of the New START Treaty, President Barack Obama is loath to admit that any country would favor force over negotiation. Nevertheless, Kennedy refers to Ronald Reagan’s adage about the prudence of missile defense. “Reagan said it was inherently more moral to prevent an attack than to retaliate for one. After all, we’ve already got swords. Why not have shields too?”
Related Articles :