Three distinguished strategic experts discussed the main drivers, trends and issues on missile proliferation in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the possible courses of actions to manage risk of miscalculation and unintended escalation of crises at the 18th Heneral Antonio Luna Colloquium titled “Missile Proliferation in the Indo-Pacific: Trends and Issues,” held on 3 November 2022 via Zoom. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI), with the Office of Strategic Studies and Strategy Management (OSSSM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) organized the event.
Mr. Dmitry Stefanovich, Research Fellow at the Center for International Security, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, explained the multifaceted nature of the contemporary missile renaissance. He highlighted the role of technological development and the increasing threat perception amidst the current volatile security environment as key drivers in the current development and acquisition of assorted land-attack and anti-ship missile systems.
Fundamental new factors aggravating current missile proliferation trends include the spread of land-attack and anti-ship missiles and their support infrastructure (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance systems) to regional players; the deployment of conventionally-armed precision strike capabilities; and the unraveling of key arms control initiatives on missiles. Currently, there is no legally binding framework regulating the development, procurement and use of missiles by states for their own military and political objectives. Mr. Stefanovich predicted that in the near future, “bubbles of air-defense and offensive missile capabilities” will exist all over the world, which could then contribute to increasing arms race dynamics.
Colonel Rommel R. Cordova PA, MNSA, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) discussed the underlying motivations of states like the Philippines to develop their own integrated missile defense capabilities to safeguard the country’s national interests. The AFP Joint Operating Concept underpins the development of a Joint Command and Control, air, maritime, and land domain capabilities towards the attainment of a credible defense posture. Colonel Cordova explained that an integrated missile system may play a vital role in executing asymmetric approaches to Anti-Access/Area-Denial in order to protect Philippine interests.
Dr. Sitakanta Mishra, Associate Professor of International Relations in the School of Liberal Studies of Pandit Deendayal Energy University argued that the proliferation of missile systems is symptomatic of regional geopolitical realities. Missiles and missile defense, considered to be stand-off, cost-effective and survivable systems, are procured in the Indo-Pacific mainly for the maritime domain in response to China’s assertive presence and the destabilizing actions of North Korea. Dr. Mishra argued that the countries in the region should learn how to cope with the regional missile geopolitics, which he referred to as the “new normal.” He suggested strengthening the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and arranging new confidence-building measures to manage miscalculation and unintended escalation. A no-first-use treaty, multiple independent reentry vehicle (MIRV) restraint regime, or cruise missile restraint regime may be explored. Furthermore, Dr. Mishra suggested convening Track 1.5 or Track 2 dialogues aimed at examining possible modalities to manage the risk associated with the proliferation of missiles in the region.
During the open forum, the speakers discussed the likelihood of having a new treaty limiting the spread of intermediate-range ground launched ballistic and cruise missiles, and the possible role that ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum can have in initiating discussions on missile proliferation in the region. The speakers admitted that much needs to be done before states may be willing to even begin discussions on missile limitation, given prevailing regional threat conditions.
Participants of the colloquium came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Department of National Defense (DND), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Service Posts, other government offices, diplomatic corps, think tanks, and the academe.