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Leif-Eric Easley, Theater Missile Defense: Balancing the Japan-PRC-Taiwan Triangle, UCLA Senior Honors Thesis, (June 2001).

Advisor: Professor Richard Baum

Theater Missile Defense (TMD) is a system being developed to protect US allies and deployed forces from regional ballistic missile attack. The missile defense controversy often mixes TMD issues with those of National Missile Defense (NMD); however, TMD is designed to counter regional ballistic missile threats whereas NMD aims to defend the entire US homeland. This thesis focuses on TMD and its impact on diplomatic relations and the strategic balance in East Asia. TMD is examined with regard to US cooperative development with Japan and implications for relations among the US, Japan, People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. A history of TMD and the East Asian context provide background to an investigation of national perspectives, followed by an integrated analysis of the diplomatic issues surrounding TMD deployment. The paper’s study of the strategic and political footprints of TMD deployment schemes makes use of domestic media reports, government policies and data, diplomatic history and numerous expert interviews. TMD is identified as a central issue in East Asian affairs that will force major powers to address long-standing disputes in Sino-US strategic relations, US defense commitments to Taiwan and the character of the US-Japan security relationship. The paper concludes that the deployment of a TMD system is a prudent defense policy, but must be carefully calculated in architecture and diplomatic presentation to avoid proliferation of ballistic missiles. The paper analytically details the strategic and political factors to be accounted for, in the interest of enhancing stability and prosperity in the East Asian region.