Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bad Options Should Not Become Policy Considerations

A recent article out by Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter appears to be his latest push to advance a proliferation strategy for Asia. He has said similar stuff in The National Interest and I suspect his co-authored book discusses his argument in more detail. He proposes that
Instead of putting a leash on Japan and South Korea, U.S. officials should inform Pyongyang -- and Beijing -- that if the North insists on wielding nuclear weapons, Washington will urge Tokyo and Seoul to make their own decisions about whether to acquire strategic deterrents.
It then goes on to say
The United States does not need to press Tokyo and Seoul to go nuclear. That would be inappropriate. It is sufficient if Washington informs those governments that the United States would not object to their developing nuclear weapons. In addition, the United States needs to let Seoul and Tokyo know that we intend to withdraw our military forces from South Korea and Japan.
To say that US need not press Japan and South Korea is erroneous. If US military were to repeal its nuclear umbrella it would be little wonder if both countries ran to fill the gap. Its like leaving the door open to the bank and swearing you had no responsibility for the subsequent and inevitable robbery.

Advocating of a new type of nuclear balance of power, to me, seems odd. The US already provides a nuclear balance of power in the region already. The presence of US' nuclear umbrella negates the need for Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear weapons. If Japan and South Korea did develop nuclear weapons, how exactly would this alter the current situation, other than the absence of American military?

It begs the question of whether this policy consideration is aimed at reducing tension in the region or simply withdrawing US interest in the region? The policy proposal of urging Japan and South Korea to start a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia, once US has pulled out, is less to do with creating a stable region and more with extracting the US from the current mess that exists there.

Such a policy would create more problems than it solves. First of all, rather than encouraging North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, it would validate North Korea's right to have its own nuclear deterrent against a nuclear Northeast Asia.

Second of all, a nuclear Japan encompasses so many more issues than simply the creation of a new balance of power structure in Northeast Asia sans US. I doubt South Korea would see itself as Japan's ally against North Korea in such circumstances, I doubt China would be so willing to pressure North Korea alongside a nuclear Japan. I strongly suspect there would be further unintended and unexpected consequences to Japan and South Korea going nuclear on US' urging. One of which would be the message it sends to the world that US decides which countries and when they should develop their own nuclear arsenal.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui