Security dilemma theory stresses two factors guiding other countries' perception of military capabilities: the relative effectiveness of offensive military operations to defensive operations; and the ability to determine whether military force structures are geared towards offensive or defensive operations. North Korea's ballistic missile programme and China's expansion of its theatre missile force have heightened both offensive capabilities and regional uncertainty over intentions. The advantage that offensive systems retain over missile defences has led South Korea and Taiwan to place greater emphasis on the acquisition of strike systems to counter the missile threat. As a result, Northeast Asia is becoming increasingly dominated by strike capabilities, and strategic stability may be undermined, as pre-emptive attacks become more rewarding. Japan's investigation of missile defences, while not without risks, poses comparatively fewer challenges for regional stability.
Aaron Matthews is a PhD candidate at the Australian Defence Force Academy / University of New South Wales.