Deterrence


In order to grasp some understanding of a possible military conflict between United States, China and/or Democratic Republic of People of Korea (DRPK), it is important to distinguish the relative differences between United States’ deterrence on China and the DRPK as well as China’s and DRPK’s deterence on United States. In the articles titled China and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Implications for the United States, Chinas New “Old” Thinking: The Concept of Limited Deterrence, China: Getting the Questions Right, Korean Peninsula, and North Korea’s Military Strategy discussed in class, deterrent distinctions between the three countries were made. Before elaborating on the relative deterrents, one must define what deterrence is. Deterrence, in the words of American strategist Thomas Schelling, is merely “the skillful non-use of force.” The enemy, when faced with the prospect of catastrophic damage, has second thoughts, and desists for fear of suffering a disproportionately greater loss than one they might inflict.


According to the authors, United States’ deterrence of China operates on multiple levels—e.g., conventional military attack on Taiwan, use of theater nuclear weapons, recourse to strategic nuclear weapons and economical restrictions. Although little systematic research has explored the range of potential U.S. options to strenghten deterrence at the strategic level, to bolster crisis stability, or to operationalize deterrence in a possible warfighting context, analysts have rather extrapolated what they view as a successful deterence of the Soviet Union and transfered such an understanding to the Chinese context. This, according to the authors, downplayed the prospects for a military confrontation between the United States and China (over Taiwan or other possible issues), or inferred that deterrence will obviously work for the United States ‘tooth-for-tooth’ China due to the large asymmetries in deployed capabilities. But a simple count of approximately 20 long-range nuclear weapons for China (or even the approximately 400 currently available strategic and tactical nuclear warheads) misses a critical point: that the U.S. ability to achieve its regional security objectives, predicated in part on power projection requirements, may be adversely affected by increased Chinese nuclear and missile capabilities. Maintaining stable nuclear deterrence at the strategic level while at the same time developing the military capabilities required to defend and promote U.S. regional interests is a clear challenge to U.S. defense planners. Looking forward, a larger Chinese nuclear force, together with a likely smaller number of future U.S. nuclear weapons, may suggest the need for a far-reaching review of U.S. deterrence policy and plans. More generally, determining the pressure points to which Chinese leadership will respond may become critical to charting a course through a crisis situation while preserving core U.S. interests. Finally, encouraging Chinese officials to learn from the Pearl Harbor rather than the Somalia analogy of American willingness to respond to aggression might enhance deterrence, diminish prospects for miscalculation, and help achieve key regional objectives.


In contrast, China has adopted a rather different deterrence tactic on U.S. policy. According to most analysts, China has long had the capability to develop multiple-war-head missiles, yet, the apparent lack of any MRVed or MIRVed missiles in the Chinese inventory suggests to many that China has adopted “limited (or ‘minimum’) deterrence” as its strategic doctrine; seeking a capability to deter convenitonal, theater, and stategic nuclear war, and to control escalation in the event of nuclear confrontation. Under a "limited deterrence" doctrine, China would need to target nuclear forces in addition to cities, which would require increased accuracy and expanded deployments. The Chinese strategic force mixture appears to be changing as PRC security perspectives evolve. The significant buildup of shorter-range missiles opposite Taiwan arguably represents a perceptual shift among PRC military officials and policymakers toward greater warfighting or coercive utility for the missile force in ‘local wars.’ China\'s deterrent posture may, therefore, rest on the use of non-nuclear-tipped missiles against non-nuclear-weapon states, coupled with a warning of potential escalation to nuclear attack. China today has a largely discretionary capability to build a larger force; much of the appropriate technological infrastructure is already in place. Moreover, the resources required for significant increases appear, in principle, to be available, although the extent to which this would require expenditure tradeoffs with other priorities is predicated in part on continued economic growth. China is currently pursuing a substantial military modernization campaign, central to which are evident qualitative improvements