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Frank Rose, Strategic Stability in East Asia, Dec. 8, 2014
Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
The Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies
December 8, 2014
I’m very pleased to be here and to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished program and group of students.
At the U.S. Department of State, I am responsible for missile defense and outer space, and a number of other strategic issues.
It’s a pleasure to be here to follow up on the visit to China and the Asia-Pacific by President Obama and my boss, Secretary of State John Kerry.
Security in the region was a key element of Secretary Kerry’s discussions throughout the region. Following up on those important discussions, I’d like to focus on the important work the United States is doing to ensure a stable U.S.-China strategic relationship in three key areas: 1) nuclear policy; 2) missile defense; 3) and outer space security.
U.S. Nuclear Policy
To put these discussions in context, let me start by discussing the key elements of United States’ nuclear policy. The key document that lays out U.S. nuclear policy is the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a legislatively-mandated review that establishes U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture for the next five years to ten years.
The NPR outlines the Administration’s strategy for implementing the President’s Prague agenda for reducing nuclear dangers and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, including concrete steps we can and should take now. It also explains how the United States will sustain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for us and our allies as long as nuclear weapons exist.
The NPR’s findings and recommendations support five key objectives:
Goal #1 Preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.
For the first time, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review placed preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism atop the U.S. nuclear agenda.
Goal #2: Reducing the role of nuclear weapons.
The NPR says that the United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions for nuclear weapons. Additionally, it strengthens the negative security assurances the United States provides to non-nuclear weapon states, and makes clear that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners. And it reaffirms that it is in the U.S. interest and that of all states that the nearly 70-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever.
Goal#3: Maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels.
The NPR reflects our commitment to renew arms control and work with Russia to reduce our nuclear forces while maintaining strategic stability. It also notes that the United States will pursue high-level bilateral dialogues with Russia and China aimed at promoting more stable and transparent strategic relationships. The New START Treaty with Russia was an important step toward this goal. I should note that despite tensions with Russia concerning many issues, notably regarding Ukraine, the United States and Russia are continuing to successfully implement the New START Treaty because it is in our mutual interests. This work will limit strategic nuclear forces to their lowest levels in over fifty years, and provide transparency and predictability even in difficult times.
Goal #4: Strengthening regional deterrence and reassurance of U.S. allies and partners.
The NPR directed the U.S. Department of Defense to pursue a comprehensive approach to broaden regional security architectures, including through missile defenses and improved conventional forces.
Goal #5: Sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal.
As long as nuclear weapons exist on the earth, the United States will sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal. The United States will modernize the nuclear weapons infrastructure, sustain the science, technology, and engineering base, invest in human capital, and ensure senior leadership focus. Investing in a modern enterprise is important to enabling further nuclear reductions by lessening requirements for maintaining weapons in reserve. An enterprise strong on science also enables the United States to forswear nuclear testing as we work toward ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—a positive step that we know China is also working toward and that we would welcome.
U.S. Nuclear Employment Strategy
Following the completion of the Nuclear Posture Review, President Obama directed an in-depth analysis of our nuclear employment strategy. This review, which was announced in June 2013, was based on the principle that a robust assessment of today’s security environment must drive nuclear employment planning, force structure, and posture decisions. The analysis assessed what changes to the nuclear employment strategy could best support the five key objectives outlined in the NPR.
The President’s guidance provides us direction in a number of ways, as it:
- Affirms that the United States will maintain a strong and credible deterrent.
- Directs U.S. plans to align with the policies of the NPR, including that the United States will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.
- Directs strengthening non-nuclear capabilities and reducing the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.
- Directs that we examine ways to reduce the role of launch under attack in U.S. planning, recognizing that the potential for a surprise disarming nuclear attack is exceedingly remote.
- Provides a new approach to hedging against technical and geopolitical risk, which will lead to more effective management of the nuclear weapons stockpile.
As a result of this analysis and new guidance, and the anticipated shifts in our military plans it will produce, we can say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need to meet our deterrence requirements and reaffirmed our commitment to pursue further reductions.
Strategic Stability with China
Now that we’ve covered U.S. policies on nuclear weapons, let’s discuss how they relate to those here in China.
As stated in the NPR, the United States is committed to maintaining strategic stability in U.S.-China relations and supports initiation of a dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear affairs aimed at fostering a more stable, resilient, and transparent security relationship with China.
That idea – “strategic stability” – is a term we use a lot, but one that is difficult to define, particularly when talking about China and the Asia-Pacific region.
During the Cold War, many associated strategic stability with what we called “mutual assured destruction,” the notion that the incentive to initiate nuclear use would be discouraged by the fear of suffering unacceptable retaliatory damage. This notion, of course, is ill-suited and too narrow to fully capture the U.S.-China relationship given our multifaceted, shared interests. In today’s world, strategic stability encompasses much more than just nuclear relations, and reflects the fact that the U.S.-China relationship, while competitive, is not adversarial.
The strategic relationship between the United States and China is complex, and we each view stability differently. Thus, it is important that we have frank and open dialogue about how our nations define and view strategic stability, and how we perceive our nuclear postures and policies impacting this balance.
As part of these discussions, the United States is willing to discuss all issues, including missile defense, space-related issues, conventional precision strike capabilities, and nuclear weapons issues, with the goal of improving the conditions for a more predictable and safer security environment.
A sustained and substantive discussion of our national approaches to maintaining effective deterrent postures and modernization of associated strategic capabilities can increase understanding, enhance confidence and reduce mistrust.
Our view is that U.S. nuclear policy is consistent with enhancing strategic stability with China, and we are committed to keeping China informed of major developments regarding our policy and plans. We also want to encourage China to be more open and forthcoming about its nuclear policies and plans.
We were also very encouraged by the progress announced on two military-to-military confidence building mechanisms during President Obama’s meeting with President Xi last month, a mechanism for the Notification of Major Military Activities and a Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters. These confidence-building mechanisms constitute a significant step forward that contributes to stable strategic relations between our countries.
Ballistic Missile Defense
As I noted, there are other important elements to maintaining strategic stability with China. We acknowledge that China is concerned that U.S. and allied ballistic missile defense (BMD) deployments may undermine China’s strategic deterrent. We disagree with this assessment, and we welcome the opportunity to clarify what we are doing and why. The U.S. homeland ballistic missile defense system is not intended to affect the strategic balance with China. We are encouraged by the beginning of a more robust conversation on this matter with our Chinese Government counterparts. But for today’s purposes, let’s begin at the beginning.
In 1998, the DPRK launched a long range ballistic missile that irresponsibly overflew Japan and irresponsibly dropped a rocket stage very near Japanese territory and on its intended course directed toward the West Coast of the United States. The launch was not successful, but it did succeed in being highly provocative and, as a result, the United States and its Allies initiated a more concerted effort to monitor, deter and counter North Korean capabilities.
Through North Korea’s provocative missile tests and nuclear tests and through it official public statements, it has made clear its intentions to threaten the U.S. with long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. North Korea has unveiled a road-mobile ICBM, while continuing development of ICBMs, intermediate range ballistic missiles and development of a new short-range ballistic missile. Unfortunately, the ballistic missile threat to U.S. and allied interests is growing, and the response must as well.
In the absence of a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s growing missile threat, the United States, along with our allies and partners, must act to protect their citizens and national interests.
Some might say that the regional response is not proportional and this could be a reason for strategic instability. Again, we disagree. The response is measured and based on the threat we see from North Korea.
The regional missile defenses we have in the Asia-Pacific region help to reassure our allies and to deter North Korea from seeking to coerce or attack its neighbors. Missile defenses in fact contribute to regional stability because they can reduce the desire for a preemptive strike, or a large retaliation to provocation during a crisis. We have encouraged our allies to contribute to their own defense but also to provide capabilities that can enhance their own security and contribute to stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Ours is a measured and limited response to a growing threat.
At the same time, we note that China is exploring advanced ballistic missile defense technologies.
It is important that our nations have a sustained dialogue on the role our missile defense systems have to both Chinese and American defense policies and strategies. We would welcome an opportunity to learn more about how BMD fits into China’s defense policy and strategy.
More broadly, a sustained dialogue would improve our understanding of China’s strategic perspective and enhance China’s understanding of U.S. policy and strategy. Institutionalizing discussions of strategic issues is a prudent long-term approach to strengthening strategic stability and exploring means for strengthening mutual trust and risk reduction.
To encourage that dialogue, we have taken and will continue to take steps to keep China informed about developments in U.S. BMD policy.
Outer Space Security
A final domain that we should explore in the U.S.-China strategic relationship is outer space.
The benefits derived from space-based systems permeate almost every aspect of our daily life. For example, the utilization of space-based information helps us here on earth by:
- warning of natural disasters;
- facilitating navigation and transportation globally;
- expanding our scientific frontiers;
- monitoring strategic and military developments as well as supporting treaty monitoring and arms control verification;
- providing global access to financial operations; and
- scores of other activities worldwide.
However, space, a domain that no nation owns but on which all rely, is increasingly at risk from the growth of space debris and irresponsible actions.
As two of the principal space-faring nations that derive significant benefits from the use of space, the United States and China have a mutual interest in protecting and preserving the long-term safety, security, stability, and sustainability of the space domain for all nations.
I believe that there are a number of concrete areas where the United States and China can work together in this areas, one of these areas is preventing the growth of orbital debris in space. The continued growth of debris in outer space presents a threat to the space systems of all nations, and preventing further growth of debris and collisions in outer space is in our mutual interest.
On that note, I’m pleased that at the recent U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in July, the United States and China reaffirmed that “orbital collision avoidance serves our common interest of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,” and agreed to take practical steps to improve coordination in this area. Both sides also committed to establish bilateral government-to-government consultation mechanisms and hold regular meetings on outer space activities.
Furthermore, the United States also looks forward to working constructively with China in multilateral forums like the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUS) and on the European Union’s proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.
That said, while we seek to work cooperatively with China in outer space, I want to be clear that the United States remains seriously concerned about China’s continued development and testing of debris generating anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities. On July 23, the Chinese Government conducted a non-destructive test of a missile designed to destroy satellites in low Earth orbit. Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test.
The United States believes that these activities, which include the continued development and testing of destructive anti-satellite systems, are both destabilizing and threaten the long-term security and sustainability of the outer space environment. A previous destructive test of the Chinese system in 2007 created thousands of pieces of debris, which continue to present an ongoing danger to the space systems—as well as astronauts—of all nations, including China.
Debris-generating ASAT weapons present a host of threats to the space environment that threaten all who benefit from outer space: the civil, commercial, military and scientific space endeavors of all nations. On the security side, ASAT weapons directly threaten individual satellites and the strategic and tactical information they provide, and their use could be escalatory in a crisis.
The destructive nature of debris-generating weapons has decades-long consequences as well: they can increase the potential for further collisions in the future, which only create more debris. A debris forming test or attack may only be minutes in duration, but the consequences can last decades threatening all space systems. It is for these reasons that the United States opposes testing debris-generating ASAT systems.
We look forward to continuing and expanding our dialogue with China on this critical issue in the future.
While these are just some of the elements that make up our security relationship, I think I’ll stop here to have time for questions. While it’s clear that the United States and China have different goals, we also have an opportunity, as two of the world’s leading powers, to address and find solutions to some of the major challenges we face.
And as Secretary Kerry said before departing for your country, “if we can cooperate together and help show the way, that will help bring other nations along and establish the norms for the rest of the world.”
Thank you very much.
David Zweig, professor emeritus at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, looks at how tensions between the United States and China have impacted scientific collaboration and research.
Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, authors of Superpower Showdown, will help us understand the ramp up of US-China economic tensions and the far-reaching consequences of the stand-off.