Regional Security Of Northeast Asia

And The Global Arms Control


By Sr. Col. Xu Weidi, Research Fellow

Institute for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, PLA, China

July 17, 2004 Shanghai


The views expressed hereunder are solely those of the author, and do not represent the position of the Peoplefs Liberation Army nor the Institute for Strategic Studies


I.                   A glance at the regional security of Northeast Asia


Power feature

Nuclear Status

Ballistic Missile

Status of  Presence


Global Power

Great NWS1


Strategic Pres.


Main Power

Great NWS


Geographic Pres.


Main Power



Geographic Pres.


Main Power

Potential NWS

De facto Yes2

Geographic Pres.


Regional Power

Potential NWS


Geographic Pres.


Regional Power4

Threshold NWS


Geographic Pres.


Small country

Non NWS5


Geographic Pres.

Table 1: Some basic features of Northeast Asia

       Notes: 1. Nuclear Weapon States;

                2. Japan has a strong Satellite launch capability

                     3. See SIPRI Yearbook 2002

                     4. DPRK is not as weak as it looks like

                     5. Mongolia declared to be a Nuclear Free Zone.


1.       Features of Northeast Asia

----Players: USA, Russia, China, Japan, ROK, DPRK, and Mongolia;

----Highly Diversified: Big and small, coastal and inland, developed and developing; and

----Northeast Asia is a geo-strategic region rather than pure geographic one.


2.       Nuclear and ballistic missile posture

----For nuclear weapons, 3 NWSs, 1 threshold NWS, 2 potential NWSs, and 1 non NWS; and

----For ballistic missiles: 4 haves, 2 potential haves and 1 have not.


3.       Regional security

----Two longstanding regional security eulcersf in of Northeast Asia: Korean Peninsula and Taiwan Strait;

----Ever increasing influence of nontraditional security factors; and

----Growing economic importance in the Asia-Pacific and the whole world.


II.                Criteria for evaluation of the regional security changes in Northeast Asia

In the discussion of security changes such as TMD or nuclear free zone in Northeast Asia, it is important to set up a set of criteria. Here are 4 of them:


1.       Whether it will enhance mutual understanding and trust or just to the opposite?


2.       Whether it will be conducive to military stability or stimulate a new round of arms raceH


3.       Whether it will undermine vital strategic interests of other players in the region?


4.       How will it work regard to the regional security eulcersf, to cure them or to make them worse?


III.             Ups and downs in the process of global arms control and disarmament in the post-Cold War years


1.       Progress followed by frustrations

---- A hopeful step forward in the early 1990s. Members of NPT enlarged, a series of arms control treaties and agreements reached.

---- Setbacks and stalemate since late 1990s.

---- Nonproliferation became the main focus in the process of the multilateral international arms control. The problems of discrimination and double standard still exist and get worse.



Treaty of accord



Treaty of Rarotonga



Agreement on NRR Center



INF Treaty



CFE Treaty






UN Register of Conventional Arms



Open skies Treaty signed



Lisbon Protocol signed, 4 formal Soviet states promise to join the NPT as NNWS



DPRK and ROK signed Nuclear Weapon Free Accord



START II signed



CWC signed



DPRK declare withdrawal from NPT



The first Korean nuclear crisis ended with U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework.



No first use treaty draft



CD started talk on FMCT



With Resolution 984 passed, Active security assurance towards the NNWSs offered by the 5 NWSs



NPT extended



Bangkok Treaty signed



Pelindaba Treaty signed



2nd Protocol of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons



CTBT signed



Ottawa Convention signed


98. 5

India and Pakistan conduct nuclear weapons tests



U.S. Senate refuse ratify CTBT



US refused to sign the proposed verification protocol for the BWC.



The US withdraw from ABM Treaty



Treaty of Moscow signed



The US withdrawal become effective



2nd Korean nuclear crisis happened



The US withdraw its security assurance offered by 1978



The Protocol on explosive war debris signed





Table 2. Ups and downs in the international arms control process in early 1990s.


2.       A big subverter: the United States

Almost all the problems above mentioned could be traced to the United States. Soon after the end of the Cold War, the United States has quickly shifted its arms control policy, from an active supporter to the biggest subverter of the existing regime framework of the international arms control and disarmament.


---- Withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2001, US have been advancing the development of BMD. The NPR report listed potential target states for nuclear strike, meant a withdrawal from the passive security assurance toward the non nuclear weapons states since 1987, START III was converted into the Treaty of Moscow, which does not reflect a real nuclear disarmament, but a removal of nuclear warheads.


---- Propose a new concept of enon traditional arms controlf, which should be read as eno arms controlf. Why focused on nonproliferation? To eliminate all possible factors which might undermine the US military strategic and operational superiority.


---- By destruction of existing arms control regime and putting forward a set of new agenda and regime such as PSI, the US is trying to establish a new world security order in which Washington will performed as dominator. In that sense, the US is by no means a status quo power, but a revisionist one.


3.       The impact of terrorism

The rise of terrorism strongly impacted global process of arms control and disarmament, demonstrated the urgent necessity for international cooperation in arms control, especially in nonproliferation agenda.


---- The international terrorist groups have never stopped their efforts to get access to WMD and related materials. Talibanfs biological lab. in Afghanistan offered a good example. The danger of terrorist attack with a edirty bombf has been rising.


---- It is a bad justification for developing BMD in the name of the war on terror. The event of e9.11f has told the world, once there were a chance, the terrorists will not hesitate to convert any civilian transportation vehicle into a WMD. It is doubtful that the terrorist will invest such huge efforts in developing their own ballistic missiles and then use them to attack the United States. So TMD in the war on terror is totally misleading.


---- Arms control, including nonproliferation means, is one of the important aspects in fighting against international terrorism. But it doesnft work with the root cause of terrorism. In essence, the Problem of terrorism is not a military issue, but a complicated political, economic and social issue with both international and domestic dimensions.


IV.              Northeast Asia and its influence to global arms control and disarmament


1.       In Northeast Asia, TMD can function only as an obstacle for regional security cooperation instead of a security umbrella


---- TMD deepened the gap between the member states in Northeast Asia, poisoned regional atmosphere and revitalized the Cold War. Because of the TMD, Northeast Asia will be divided into two blocs again: being targeted and being protected.


---- The most troubling development has been U.S. efforts to integrate Taiwan into its BMD plans in East Asia, which seriously threaten Chinese national security and have added additional strain on Sino-U.S. relations. With Patriot-2 missiles already being sold to Taiwan and the future sale of Patriot-3s under going, Washington wants to establish its TMD system on the island piece by piece. And those separatist on the island would take TMD as means to realize their dream of eTaiwan Independencef. So TMD is bond to increase tension across the Taiwan Strait. However, TMD wouldnft save those separatistsf ass.


2.       Only if the DPRK escapes from the Cold War shadow, there could be a hope for a Nuclear Freed Korean Peninsula.


---- The core of the Korean nuclear crisis is neither nuclear weapons nor ballistic missiles, but a remained Cold War structure in the Peninsula. It is incorrect to treat is as only an issue of proliferation. Why did Pyongyang try to maintain the nuclear weapon program? They want to use the bomb possibility as a strong bargaining chip to force Washington to talk with them and finally to normalize their bilateral relationship. That is to say, if the North Koreans think their fundamental security concern is fairly addressed, it is likely that they would agree to give up their immature nuclear weapon programs.


----Neither TMD nor PSI will resolve the Korean nuclear issue, but to make it more complicated. DPRK must take both as hostile threats and will take more strong countermeasures to overcome the effects of them. So they wouldnft be conducive to increase mutual trust and understanding between DPRK and the USA and between the two Koreas.


----Beijing six party talks have opened a new road toward a peaceful solution of the Korean nuclear issue and maintain a stable and denuclearized Korean Peninsula. In the talk, both Pyongyang and Washington would have to make mutual compromise and other parties legitimate interests could be fairly taken cared. Considering the complicacy and deep mistrust between the two sides, it bonds to be a long and zigzag journey for the final solution of the issue.


3.       Curing the two historical security eulcersf, Northeast Asia will contribute greatly to the world arms control and disarmament.

---- The time for curing the two historical regional security eulcersf is coming. It seems that Korean Peninsular will be released first followed by the Taiwan Strait.

----The process for resolving the Korean nuclear issue, in some sense, will be a rearrangement of the regional strategic structure, and a starting of the united Korean rise. During the course, it is CBMs rather than nonproliferation should be more emphasized.

----Taiwan Strait is covered by a large piece of cloud which predicts severe crises. ePeaceful unification, one country two systemsf is Beijingfs settled basic principle. But that doesnft mean there is no single gunshot. History proved that sometime another kind of language was more persuading. It appears that on the issue of national unification, wefve got to pay certain price. But we wouldnft step into those separatists trap. As the storm passed, there must be a fine day of CBMs and disarmament, but not as part of international arms control.