Missiles and Missile Defense

Our experts weigh in on security issues with U.S. national missile defense and nuclear weapons around the world.


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China and North Korea: A Viewer’s Guide

, China project manager and senior analyst

Translation: The Last “Celestial Empire”—Mao Zedong. Kim Il-sung and China-North Korea Relations”

US analysts and officials often refer to North Korea as China’s ally, as if it were a diplomatic or military asset. History suggests it’s more like a rock around China’s neck. Chinese President Xi Jinping may find it too heavy to bear.

Or, he may succeed in solving one of the most intractable security problems in East Asia. The denuclearization of North Korea is the UN benchmark both Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to meet. They reiterated that promise in their most recent get together in Beijing earlier this month. Read more >

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The Long-Overdue Missile Defense Review Expected (Again) This Week

, Washington representative and senior analyst

Where’s the Trump administration’s hugely delayed Missile Defense Review? The latest rumor is that it will be released this coming Thursday, and that seems plausible (but I wouldn’t hold your breath).

The review was congressionally mandated in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was originally expected in late 2017. Then it was expected around the February 2018 release of the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review. After that, it was expected in May. Now, it is more than a year late, and what it says remains a mystery. Read more >

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Okinawa’s Burden

, China project manager and senior analyst

The author with Gov. Masahide Ota in his office at the Okinawa Peace Research Institute in April, 2017

China isn’t the only country tearing up precious coral reefs to build new military outposts in the Pacific. Just before the new year holiday, in order to fulfill obligations to the US military, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began covering the coral reefs of Henoko Bay with landfill.

It’s the latest move in a decades old struggle between the people of Okinawa, who don’t want another US military base on their tiny island, and the central government of Japan, which agreed to construct the massive new Henoko facility under the terms of a controversial agreement with the United States. US military bases already occupy nearly a quarter of the 466 sq. mi island, which is home to approximately 1.5 million people. Three quarters of all US military bases in Japan and over half of the US military personnel stationed in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, which accounts for less than 1% of Japan’s total land mass.  Read more >

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No, Space-Based Missile Defense Will Not Cost Only $20 Billion. (Spoiler: That’s only the launch costs.)

, senior scientist

Space-based missile defense is a terrible idea. It is expensive and straightforwardly defeated, and it is dangerous and destabilizing. (If you haven’t watched it, please do take a look at this video and web feature UCS just produced. It helps to see these arguments visually.)

But knowledgeable people say it’s not so expensive!

At a recent event hosted by the Missile Defense Advocacy, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin calculated the cost to “put up” an interceptor layer. Given how Griffin talked about it, you may be forgiven for thinking he means this is the full cost of a space-based missile defense system—rather than just the cost of launching the interceptors into space. Read more >

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How to Think about Space-Based Missile Defense

, co-director and senior scientist

UPDATE: In September 2018, UCS released an animated feature and video that explains how space-based missile defense works. Check it out here.

The idea of space-based missile defense system has been around for more than 30 years. There are at least two reasons for its continuing appeal. Read More

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