Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU





Tuesday, 20th April 1993



The evolution of the military situation in Eastern Eurasia

Mr. TAN ENG BOK (Charge de recherche, CNRS, France)

There are three main aspects to the military situation in eastern Eurasia: the military and strategic consequences of the dismantling of the Soviet Union; the regional repercussions of the security options of the People's Republic of China; and the political and strategic facts stemming from North Korea's nuclear programme.

Military and strategic developments as a result of the dismantling of the Soviet Union directly affect Western European security. They relate in particular to current changes in the European part of the former Soviet Union. But the evolution of the situation to the east of the Mediterranean also involves risks for European security. Because of the growing interdependence of advanced economies in the industrialised world to which Western Europe belongs, the latter can hardly ignore the repercussions of upheavals that may occur in eastern Asia.

Military and strategic consequences of the disappearance of the Soviet Union

The disappearance of the Soviet Union first led to the return of its principal successor state, Russia, to the international stage. It also gave birth to a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with an uncertain life span.

For the Russian military, the major consequence of the disappearance of the Soviet Union, preceded by the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact, can be summed up in the following remark by General Grachev.

"On the basis of the Warsaw Pact, we created the first and principal strategic area... When the two German states were unified and the Warsaw Pact collapsed, the principal defensive sector shifted towards the frontiers of our state... Following Ukraine's immediate privatisation of the three military districts on its territory, we are now in an exceptionally difficult situation... That is not all. We are now in a wholly unprecedented situation. The Moscow military district has effectively become a frontier military district."(6)

This being so, Russia retains considerable nuclear and conventional power while the reductions agreed to correspond mainly to three requirements: (i) continuing to possess only recent equipment to rationalise management and improve logistic support; (ii) releasing more resources in order to develop better-performance weapons systems; and (iii) ensuring, in principle as from 1999, the inevitable transition towards a necessarily "small", but entirely professional, army, which alone can master the advanced technology of new equipment demonstrated in the Desert Storm operation.

Furthermore, certain Russian concessions such as the elimination, by 2003, of fixed SS-18 intercontinental missiles may be explained by the fact that their means of delivery are manufactured in Pavlograd and Dnepropetrovsk, i.e. in Ukraine. Conversely, for the armed forces so often described as prey to the most complete disarray, the withdrawal of former Soviet occupation forces from reunified Germany in accordance with the planned time-table makes one wonder about the Russian army's true state of cohesion. Similarly, in the military space area alone, in 1992 Russia launched practically twice as many missions as the United States while the present Russian space vigil project represents a capability equal to that of the former Soviet Union at the height of the cold war (7). Finally, Boris Yeltsin has announced an increase of 10% in expenditure earmarked for the production of new weapons in the 1993 budget (8).

The 1992 draft Russian military doctrine also raises a number of questions. How can we interpret a text which not only continues, admittedly in veiled terms, to consider the United States and NATO as the major military threat but goes so far as to envisage, in certain conditions, the possibility of first use of nuclear weapons in response to an attack, even non- nuclear? Moreover, Russian armed forces will no longer be restricted exclusively to a defensive strategy; they must be prepared "to fight all kinds of military action, both defensive and offensive ... to bring down the aggressor ... and grasp the strategic initiative" (9). In other words, this text is well behind compared with that of the draft Soviet military doctrine issued in 1990.

The result of two irretrievably opposing objectives, the CIS is but one stage in the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Russians consider the CIS should help to reconstitute the empire. For the Ukrainians, on the other hand, the CIS is merely a transitional stage on the way to complete independence and it is above all in this framework that should be set, in the absence of serious international guarantees, their parliament's reticence to ratify the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the strategic arms reduction treaty and the Lisbon Protocol to the latter (10). Parallel with these two aims, the CIS is in the throes of ethnic clashes and civil war. Among these ethnic conflicts, the fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis for gaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh brings risks of internationalisation involving Turkey (11), a member of NATO, and Iran.

Regional repercussions of the security orientations of the People's Republic of China

The disappearance of the East-West confrontation more or less led to that of the "great strategic triangle" between Washington Beijing and Moscow although, in practice, some triangular interaction has survived, but to a lesser degree. Conversely, new triangles have emerged or are about to do so, in the following terms: relatively good Sino-Japanese relations; fairly tense Sino-American and American-Japanese relations; and Russo-Japanese relations in the process of changing.

This new security environment is helping to dispel the rigidity produced in the People's Republic of China following the disappearance of the "great strategic triangle" in international policy in general and in Sino-American relations in particular. Conversely, Beijing is starting to be concerned about the new trend in Japanese diplomacy towards a more active, not to say interventionist, role in the framework, admittedly, of "peace-keeping".

Beijing considers that the basis of national security is still the preservation of internal political stability accompanied by the pursuit of economic prosperity (12). From this point of view, the Chinese Government has obtained satisfactory results which are not limited just to the growth of GNP. In twelve years of reforms, Chinese economic structures have changed considerably: in 1978, agriculture accounted for 42% of Chinese GNP, industry 38% and services 20%; in 1990, the proportions were 30%, 45% and 25% respectively.

Modernisation of defence has not been forgotten, which is disturbing for its neighbours, particularly in south-east Asia. For the fourth consecutive year, the People's Republic of China has increased its military expenditure, at least in terms of nominal growth more or less covered by inflation. The two priority sectors are the air force and navy but, in this connection, the efforts should be set in a regional framework of overall modernisation (13).

Thus, Beijing has ordered Su-27s and is exploring the possibility of producing MiG-31s under licence, but to date it has received only 24 Su-27s out of a total that is not to exceed 60 aircraft. In comparison Seoul has ordered 120 F-16s and Taipei 150 F-16s and 60 Mirage 2000-5s, to mention only those two countries.

In the naval sector, the Chinese programme seems modest compared with that of its neighbours in northern Asia or the Republic of China (Taiwan), with 8 Oliver Hazard Perry frigates and 16 Lafayette frigates. Here, it should also be pointed out that Indonesia is considering procuring 39 surface craft - frigates, landing craft and mine-sweepers - from Germany. However, it is true that Chinese claims in the South China Sea cover a vast area and are a source of concern to other countries around its shores.

The last point concerns the possible role of the People's Republic of China vis-a-vis nuclear and ballistic proliferation in the third world. Apart from the power station already delivered to Algeria, the People's Republic should be supplying Iran and Pakistan with a 300 MW nuclear reactor each. However, China has announced that these technology transfers will be carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This appears to show a new tendency among Chinese defence industries, which are trying to offset the reduction in their arms exports by transfers of advanced civil technology.

The part played by China in ballistic proliferation is more difficult to circumscribe. It seems certain that the People's Republic is supplying technical co-operation to Iran and Pakistan for the development of theatre ballistic missiles. However, Beijing agreed, albeit with some reluctance, to comply with the missile technology control regime (MTCR) in November 1991. It ought, therefore, to be ascertained whether China's co-operation with Iran and Pakistan predates its tacit acceptance of the MTCR. Generally speaking, however, it seems difficult for the West in general, and the United States in particular, to want China to ensure that it does not undermine western security by encouraging nuclear and ballistic proliferation in the third world when, according to Beijing, security is affected by sales of arms to Taipei by the western powers.

Political and strategic facts stemming from the North Korean nuclear programme

The various stages and components of the North Korean nuclear programme since the outset are relatively well known through the general press and specialised publications (14). The same cannot be said of the reasons that induced Pyongyang to launch and pursue such a programme.

The North Korean regime has always proclaimed that it was seeking to denuclearise the peninsula, i.e. in concrete terms the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons deployed in the south (15). Its aim was attained in 1991 with the American decision to withdraw all tactical nuclear weapons deployed throughout the world and this was confirmed by President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea in a declaration of 18th December (16). North Korea subsequently signed the nuclear guarantee agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency on 30th January 1992 followed by a joint declaration for a non-nuclear Korean peninsula on 18th February.

Pyongyang's latest U-turn would be surprising if data specific to the latest developments in North Korea's internal policy and strategic situation were not incorporated. In many respects, the Team Spirit manoeuvres mainly served as a pretext for Pyongyang to call in question on-site inspections and then its adherence to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Here there are four possible hypotheses. The first concerns the role played by Kim Jong Il in this matter in order to enhance his standing as the successor designated by his father in internal policy and at diplomatic level. The second is to stir up the population about the risks of war in order to divert its attention from growing economic difficulties. The third, a corollary of the second, tries to bring pressure to bear on the south to increase trade with and investments in the north. Finally, the fourth brings us back to the classic northern practice of always trying to deal direct with the United States since it considers the south to be merely an emanation of the latter. This last hypothesis brings us back to the wider aspect of the North Korean regime's concept of its legitimacy, a concept that rules out that of the south (17).

The North Korean regime based its legitimacy on national reunification. Now that Kim Il Sung is in the process of handing over his power to his son, this question of legitimacy arises in an even more crucial context. The option of reunification by force has become less and less credible for the north, in particular the so-called "three-day war" strategy for crossing the demarcation line and taking Seoul (18). The same is true of prospects for a popular rising in the south, particularly now that discontent is rife in the north following shortages and conditions for exchanging bank notes (19). Finally, Pyongyang no longer has any allies to support it if it wished to launch another war against the south: Moscow has even gone so far as to propose selling advanced weapons to Seoul, in particular missiles with an anti-missile capabilty to intercept those from the north. Beijing has established diplomatic relations with Seoul, thereby completing the isolation of Pyongyang in the region.

In the light of all these facts, both domestic and strategic, the latest developments in the North Korean nuclear programme take on another dimension. It is the only trump card of a hard-pressed regime for use mainly at diplomatic level in order to be able to negotiate direct with the United States: thus, Kim Yong Sun, a member of the Political Bureau of the North Korean Labour party, was able to hold talks with Arnold Kantor, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, in January 1993 (20). Similarly, following the meeting between Americans and North Koreans in Beijing last March, talks were held at the level of United States and North Korean Ambassadors in that city.

Finally, the North Korean regime is also contributing to ballistic proliferation in the third world (21). Since the end of the war between Iraq and Iran, Iran procured between 100 and 170 Scud Cs from Pyongyang in 1991. Furthermore, a tripartite agreement between North Korea, Syria and Iran was concluded in June 1991 for assembling Scud Cs in Syria for Iran; a second North Korean shipment for Syria was detected in February 1992 (22). North Korean co-operation with Iran increased with the transfer of a more advanced missile, Rodong 1, which has not yet been tested, however. This missile might be delivered to the Iranians at the end of this year (23). Finally, a successor to Rodong 1, Rodong 2, with a range of 1 500 to 2 000 km, is now being developed (24). If, like the others, this new programme were to benefit from financing from the Middle East, it would be highly probable that it would appear in that region and, consequently, help to heighten significantly the risks of proliferation.


Faced with many Russian uncertainties, vigilance is still essential, as is the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance. While the probability, not to say feasibility, of a head-on Russian attack seems slight, the same would not be true for nuclear risks resulting from the dissolution of political power in Russia. Such risks help to increase the need for anti-missile defence for Europe and, thanks to transatlantic co-operation in this area, this would be an opportunity to strengthen solidarity among members of NATO now that the alliance, the capstone of security and prosperity in Western Europe in the last four decades, is in the process of changing. Moreover, the present and future progress of nuclear and ballistic proliferation in the Middle East plead for the development, for European security, of defence against limited missile firings because Muslim fanaticism will not necessarily be receptive to the principles of nuclear deterrence. Finally, from a strictly military standpoint, such co-operation will enhance the interoperability of equipment and weapons systems among the allies because it should not be forgotten that the success of Desert Storm was due mainly to the highly-integrated nature of the armed forces of the principal coalition powers in the framework of NATO.

A stable, prosperous China would do more good for international security and the common interests of the West as a whole than a new outbreak of disorder. China's political stability is still fragile because of post-Deng Xiaoping uncertainty and, paradoxically, the success of economic reforms without a political quid pro quo. This precarious balance should not be jeopardised by openly encouraging democratisation which is certainly necessary but might lead to the reversal of a progressive evolution.

Finally, Beijing's isolation on the international stage would remove any reason for it to take part in limiting nuclear and ballistic proliferation in the third world in general and in the Middle East in particular.

Finally, vis-a-vis North Korea, the necessary firmness should not rule out the continuation of some form of dialogue accompanied by minimum but conditional assistance. In parallel, there is great uncertainty about Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic programme. The development of anti-missile defence in eastern Asia is therefore preferable to an arms race for Japan and South Korea. These two countries, which already benefit from United States extended security, are also taking part in the American strategic defence research programme to which the new risks brought about by North Korea give further justification. However, the development of defence systems, even against limited firings of ballistic missiles, are a heavy burden, particularly in a period of cuts in military spending after the cold war. Co-operation - both transatlantic and transpacific - in this area will therefore be particularly fruitful since it will allow a reduction in the cost of research and development and enable a coherent system to be set up in face of a threat that will very likely be of a similar kind - North Korean technology available to Islamic powers in the Middle East.

Mr. SCHEER (Germany) thought not enough attention had been paid to the philosophy behind a missile defence system. The matter had often been discussed in the Bundestag where the attitude was quite negative towards anti-ballistic missile defence systems. The Gulf war had shown that the military capability of the West was more than adequate and it would be difficult to justify the high cost of increasing capabilities. Who should have political control of such a new system?

The European sector of NATO had five times more military potential than the other countries of the Mediterranean basin. Proliferation had to be avoided. Traditionally, nuclear deterrence had been necessary because of the conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact. This argument, however, was not valid as a means of defence against possible weaker opponents since it might encourage them to seek more sophisticated means.

Political initiatives should be taken to preclude the possibility of such regions having legitimate arguments for resorting to nuclear means. A goal might be to have armaments control agreements covering the whole Mediterranean area, instead of seeking new armaments superiority which could but lead to a new arms race which public opinion would never accept.

Mr. BAUMEL (France) did not agree with the previous speaker. He wished to concentrate on three questions: first, how could an anti-ballistic missile defence system be reconciled with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - were the two ideas compatible? Second, regarding the possibilities of an anti-missile system, it was essential to be able to identify the attacker and this called for an extraordinarily sophisticated system of satellites and early-warning devices. Third, it was necessary to face up to the options of protecting the whole population or only certain military targets or overall protection from a distant threat. It was necessary to define these options.

General JEAN (Italy) also disagreed with Mr. Scheer. The public opinion he mentioned might be valid in Germany but not in Italy which had been aroused by the launching of two missiles on Lampedusa. Knowledge of Mediterranean countries and Arab mentality implied that it was necessary to seek positive solutions through co-operation from a position of strength. A reasonable defence system was necessary to protect the populations.

A suitable framework for co-operation would be the CSCM extended from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, the idea being a reciprocal rather than multilateral defence programme. Complications arose in regard to relations between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel, for instance. Saudi Arabia was building up its defences to improve its security vis-a-vis Iran and this was a source of concern for Israel. It was difficult to find an acceptable status quo in the third world but a reasonable level of security had to be maintained, at the same time avoiding the instability that might result from overall disarmament.


6. Izvestia, 1st June 1992.

7. Craig Covault, Russians rejuvenate military space assets, Aviation Week and Space Technology (4th January 1993), pages 54 and 55.

8. Russia 'will spend more on weapons', Jane's Defence Weekly, Volume 18, No. 23 (5th December 1992), page 5.

9. See Georges Tan Eng Bok, Projet de doctrine militaire et developpement des forces armees : le poids du passe sovietique dans le present russe, Strategique, No. 56 (fourth quarter 1992), pages 81-96.

10. Leonid Kravchuk, address to the World Economic Forum, Davos, 30th January 1993.

11. For instance, Turkey moves to shield faltering Azerbaijanis, International Herald Tribune, 6th April 1993.

12. See, for instance, David Shambaugh, China's security policy in the post-cold war era, Survival, Volume 34, No. 2 (Summer 1992), pages 88-106.

13. Michael Richardson, Arms race feared in east Asia if nited States leaves too quickly, International Herald Tribune, 10th-11th April 1993.

14. For instance, Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., North Korea's nuclear programme, Jane's Intelligence Review, Volume 3, No. 9 (September 1991), pages 404-411.

15. See Kongdan Oh, North Korean views on a nuclear-free Korea in Background and Options for Nuclear Arms Control on the Korean Peninsula, a Rand Note, N-3475-USDP (Santa Monica, Rand, 1992), pages 17-20.

16. Details in Georges Tan Eng Bok, Nuclear proliferation in the Far East: the case of North Korea, paper delivered to the Workshop on Nuclear Proliferation, Department of War Studies, King's College, London, 8th January 1992.

17. See Rhee Sang-woo, North Korea's unification strategy: review of military strategies in Kang Young-hoon and Yim Yong-soon, editors, Politics of Korean Reunification, Seoul, Research Centre for Peace and Unification, 1978, pages 127-157.

18. Choi Young, The North Korean military build-up and its impact on North Korean military strategy in the 1980s, Asian Survey, Volume XXV, No. 3 (March 1985), pages 341-355.

19. North Koreans protest shortages and Currency riots in North Korea, International Herald Tribune, 5th-6th September 1992. See also Nicholas D. Kristof, In North Korea, food is scanty but hatred of regime is plentiful, International Herald Tribune, 19th February 1992, and Hans Vriens, North Korea: Road to nowhere, Far Eastern Economic Review, 30th April 1992, page 22.

20. Kim Jong Su, Sticking to their guns, Newsweek, 19th April 1993, page 56. (Ambassador Kim Jon Su is Assistant Permanent Representative of North Korea to the United Nations.)

21. See Georges Tan Eng Bok, Les nouveaux risques nucleaires et balistiques, Strategique, No. 55 (third quarter 1992), pages 265-285.

22. Elaine Sciolino, United States tracks North Korean ship said to hold missiles - Scuds and equipment are headed for Syria, intelligence aides say, International Herald Tribune, 21st February 1992.

23. Douglas Jehl, Iran is near a missile deal in North Korea, United States says, International Herald Tribune, 8th April 1993.

24. Joe Bermudez, Ballistic ambitions ascendant, Jane's Defence Weekly, Volume 19, No. 15 (April 1993), pages 20 and 21.