Paul Davis argues that the Ukraine war has made the range of potential nuclear-use case scenarios in Northeast Asia, including a limited nuclear war, even more plausible. The war has also upset the calculus of all the major actors in the region; China may perceive greater risks in an attempted invasion of Taiwan, for instance, while South Korea and Japan may seek ways to strengthen US nuclear guarantees, potentially further heightening tensions in the region. With an increasing danger of nuclear weapons use, Davis calls for negotiations to establish clear “rules of the road” and improved mutual understanding of nuclear realities, actions, and signals. A reconsideration of nations’ defenses is also in order, he says, for “if the vulnerable states more actively prepare for stalwart self-defense, and perhaps for independent nuclear deterrents, prospects for regional arms control might improve.”
This policy brief was prepared for the project “Reducing the Risk of Nuclear Weapon Use in Northeast Asia.” The research described in this paper was co-sponsored by the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA), the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, and the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN), with collaboration from the Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA). Additional funding was provided by the MacArthur Foundation.
About the Author
Paul K. Davis is a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and a retired adjunct Senior Principal Researcher at RAND. He received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in chemical physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked in strategic warning technology and systems analysis before joining the U.S. government to work on strategic force planning and arms control. As a Senior Executive, he then headed analysis of global military strategy and related defense programs in the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation. He then joined the RAND Corporation, where his research has dealt with strategic planning under deep uncertainty; deterrence theory; modeling; information fusion; and causal social science for policy applications. He has served on numerous national panels and journal editorial boards. He developed and conducted a prescient nuclear-crisis war game in Seoul in 2016. His most recent major work (co-edited) is Social Behavioral Modeling for Complex Systems (2019), Wiley & Sons. This essay represents his own analysis and is unrelated to RAND research.
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