U.S., Japan Formalize TMD Cooperation

After several years of discussions, the United States and Japan agreed in mid-August to formally begin joint technology research on Navy Theater Wide, a theater missile defense (TMD) system to be carried on Aegis ships. This cooperative effort responds to North Korea's August 1998 test of its 1,500-2,000 kilometer-range Taepo Dong-1 missile, which flew over Japanese territory. (See ACT, August/September 1998.) The August 16 memorandum of understanding, signed by the Department of Defense and the Japanese Defense Agency, directs the parties to focus their efforts on four key components—the sensor, advanced kinetic kill warhead, second-stage propulsion and lightweight nose cone—of the system's interceptor missile, known as the Standard Missile-3. No decision has been made on joint deployment. Russia and China have repeatedly criticized U.S. efforts to cooperate with Japan (and possibly Taiwan) on TMD. Grigory Berdennikov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's department for security and disarmament, said August 19 that the U.S.-Japan agreement would threaten stability in Asia. Earlier this year, Ambassador Sha Zukang, director-general of the department of arms control and disarmament in China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, argued that TMD in Taiwan would give pro-independence forces "a false sense of security, which may incite them to reckless moves." "This can only lead to instability across the Taiwan Strait or even in the entire North-East Asian region," he said on January 12. These warnings take on added significance following Taiwan's expression of interest in TMD on August 18. (See story.)