The world appears to one step closer to confrontation. The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump has announced the first Missile Defense Review (MDR) in nine years since 2010, revealing a plan to establish a missile defense (MD) system utilizing space that far exceeds the capabilities of Russia or China.
The United States, China and Russia are all developing hypersonic missiles capable of flying at speeds exceeding Mach 5, and Russia revealed the hypersonic glider Avangard with a top speed of Mach 20 or higher. The new weapon is said to be able to penetrate existing MD systems.
In an apparent response to such a move, the United States delayed the announcement of the MDR, which was originally scheduled to be due out last year. In announcing the review, President Trump explained six changes in the missile defense policy, saying, "We must pursue the advanced technology and research to guarantee that the United States is always several steps ahead of those who would do us harm."
In the last of the six policy changes, President Trump demanded "fair burden sharing" by "wealthy countries" the U.S. is protecting. As the 108-page MDR includes many references to cooperation with Japan, it is certain that Washington will strengthen its demands for Japan's burden sharing, including financial contributions.
In the review, the U.S. changed its target from ballistic missiles to missiles in general and reflected it in the naming of the review report. This revision shows a realization that not only ballistic missiles but other categories such as cruise and hypersonic missiles pose dangers requiring responses.
The U.S. will consider the deployment of a space-based missile detection sensor network and interceptors to counter hypersonic missiles that are difficult to catch using ground-based radar. It is still in an experimental stage, but it reminds us of the massive "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) conceived during the administration of President Ronald Reagan.
We should remember, however, that the immensely expensive SDI essentially remained on the drawing board. Beefing up military spending does not make countries safe at all. The Cold War gave us countless lessons about the futility of an arms race. It's ridiculous that the three powers -- the U.S., Russia and China -- are rushing toward a military buildup in a game of chicken.
The Trump administration maintains the posture of dumping the Intermediate-range Nuclear Force Treaty, arguably an historic agreement from the Cold War era. But a fundamentally rational and wise action for Washington to take is making trilateral disarmament efforts with Moscow and Beijing, not trying to outpace the two countries in expanding military arsenals. The missile review indicated strong concerns toward North Korea and Iran, but efforts should be made to create an atmosphere toward disarmament globally, in a bid to prevent missile proliferation.