The Impact of a Limited Nuclear Free Zone on Deployed Nuclear Weapons in Northeast Asia

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NAPSNet Special Report

Recommended Citation

John E. Endicott, "The Impact of a Limited Nuclear Free Zone on Deployed Nuclear Weapons in Northeast Asia", NAPSNet Special Reports, June 23, 1995,

John E. Endicott

Georgia Institute of Technology

Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy



Presented at the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, 17-19 July


(Conference on Peace and Security and the Nuclear Issue in

Northeast Asia)

Graphics are only available in hard copy


The idea of nuclear free zones in Northeast Asia is not new. In 
fact there are numerous references to such a ideas in the 
speeches and declaratory policies of the leaders of North Korea, 
the former Soviet Union, and the Socialist Party of Japan., even 
since the late 1970s.  These ideas will not be reviewed in detail 
in this context, but normally they were general, contained vast 
regions of operating area of the Pacific Ocean, and were not 
believable or realistic given the political rhetoric and 
invective of the Cold War era in which they were generated. 

The objective of this paper is to review the impact of a concept, 
born in late 1991 and tested in U.S. government and academic 
circles as early as February 1992, that would attempt to limit 
the deployment of nuclear weapons within a described zone of 
Northeast Asia -- a circle 1200nm in radius and centered in the 
middle of the DMZ of the Korean Peninsula.  Central to the idea 
is the creation of a multinational verification agency, based in 
Vladivostok, that would oversee implementation and execution of 
the agreement.  This organization would become the first 
operating regional institution with security responsibilities 
that would meet at a working level on a regularized -- perhaps 
daily -- basis.  Its responsibilities would be to insure that 
nuclear weapons possessing states with forces in the region, 
Russia, China, and the United States, have, indeed, removed 
weapons as promised.  Further, however, the verification 
organization, manned by specialists from all the areas in the 
zone (China, Japan, North and South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, 
Taiwan, and the United States) would be authorized and expected 
to inspect the nuclear power and research programs of the non-
nuclear weapons possessing states -- Japan, the two Koreas, 
Mongolia, and Taiwan -- to insure that pledges not to weaponize 
their programs are being maintained.

While the area would enjoy the benefits of having nuclear weapons 
removed from the immediate area of the zone, realization of the 
concept would also accelerate the development of a cooperative 
regional security community that would replace confrontation of 
the Cold War Era with a sense of developing cooperation.  
Reciprocal access to military and nuclear installations 
throughout the zone, as found in the 1991  North- South bilateral 
denuclearization agreement for the Korean Peninsula,  would begin 
to build a sense of trust, offer a reassuring transparency into 
hitherto secret defense facilities, and most importantly, provide 
a supportive environment for the final realization of the 
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Reducing the isolation 
and political paranoia of the leaders of the Democratic Peoples 
Republic of Korea could indeed occur in the near and mid-term.  
Of critical importance to the long-term is the creation of a 
regional security community that has as its long-term partner, 
the United States working with its Asian neighbors to insure a 
stable security environment for the general prosperity of the 
entire region.

Central to the success of such a concept is the commitment of 
Japan, especially, to open its plutonium reprocessing facilities 
and nuclear storage areas to the multinational inspectors.  No 
one item is more destablizing to the states of East Asia than the 
eight tons of plutonium held by a dynamic and vibrant Japan.  
Even though Japan's reprocessing program is under full IAEA 
safeguards, conversations with policy makers of the states of the 
region reveal a very deep and abiding concern over this program 
for an energy alternative for the future.  Japan's leadership in 
this effort is a natural outgrowth of its worldwide commitment to 
see the nuclear weapons threat disappear from the earth.  This 
would be a step that the new Socialist Prime Minister of Japan 
could begin during his tenure as leader of a new and remarkable 
coalition of political forces in Japan.

The enthusiastic involvement of all the states mentioned above is 
required, however, and could be realized as a result of the 
"window of opportunity" offered to the international community by 
President Jimmy Carters bold trip to North and South Korea.  
Exposure of the concept to military and civilian policy makers, 
academics, and civic bodies in the nations mentioned above by the 
author reveals a consistent positive if cautious reception.  
However, for this paper, it is appropriate to examine what would 
be the impact on the deployment patterns of nuclear weapons 
states of such a concept and what might be the feasible ways to 
approach actual implementation after having heard the critique of 
the security communities of the countries concerned.

Deployment Patterns of Nuclear Weapons States within the Zone: 
(Please Refer to Map 1)

Russia:  Until the Nuclear Weapons Databook, Volume V, was 
published in April 1994, the most difficult nuclear weapons 
deployment pattern to describe was China's; however, since this 
much needed book reached our hands, only one nation in the 
Northeast Asian region stands out as difficult to project.  That 
country, unfortunately for this paper, is Russia.  However, 
parameters can be outlined and maximums can probably be described 
with some degree of reliability.  Precise data, that capture the 
ongoing reduction and modernization of strategic systems in this 
area due to Start reductions are difficult to obtain.  In any 
case, what can be shown is the nature of the impact of the 
realization of a limited NFZ, even if we cannot at this juncture, 
identify each and every nuclear weapons site, and describe the 
kind of systems present.

 One of the problems is, of course, the increasingly chaotic 
nature of the Russian state and the manner in which it supports 
its military establishment.  According to recent preliminary 
studies by Barry Blechman, Gerald Segal, and William Arkin and 
Robert Norris, a very unclear and changing picture of Russian 
nuclear forces is gleaned.  Segal presents us with the reported 
finding of a "wagon-load of nuclear missiles near Kurgan (western 
Siberia) which were 'mislaid due to the negligence of railway 
staff.'" While western Siberia is not within the LNEA zone, the 
notion that tactical missiles can be "found" in railway cars at 
random marshalling yards throughout Russia, does not build 
confidence in the reliability of our regional accounting.

The most recent publication of IISS (a map of strategic systems 
published in 1992) showing the placement of Russian strategic 
nuclear weapons shows that there are five principal nuclear 
installations in the zone.  Beginning with the SS-11 base at 
Drovyanaya, just east of Lake Baikal, with 50 launchers and one 
warhead per launcher, the facilities progress eastward in the 
following manner:

-Yasnaya SS-11 Base with 90 launchers   

-Svobodnyy SS-11 Base with 60 launchers

-Ukrainka Air Base with 45 TU-95 Bears (with 16 ALCMs per 

-Pavlovskoye Naval Base with 6 Delta 1 SSBNs, and possibly 3 
Yankee SSBNs. Outside the zone at 1500nm from the DMZ is the 
Ribacniy Naval Base with three Delta 1 subs and 9 Delta 111 
SSBNs.  The Delta 1s carry 12 SS-N-8 missiles with one warhead 
each; the Delta 111's carry 16 SS-N-18 with three warheads per 
launcher.  The Yankees have 16 SS-N-6 missiles with one warhead 
apiece. If the above figures are correct, Russian strategic 
warheads number approximately 1040 within the zone.  Tactical 
warheads have been estimated at 1000 for "the Russian portion of 
Northeast Asia."  Thus, in a very rough way, we can estimate that 
somewhat over 2040 to 2050 Russian warheads are within the zone 
depicted as the LNFZ for Northeast Asia.  Given the range of the 
various strategic systems involved, all members of the NFZ are at 
risk from these strategic forces.  The tactical weapons will be 
assumed to threaten only immediate border areas, but could 
actually threatened areas as much as 500 nm from their location 
if tactical air is the method of employment. (Refer to the equal 
range projection chart for a visual understanding of possible 
targets within range of tactical systems. Map 2) While counting 
installations and projecting range capabilities for hardware 
depicts one kind of image, there is another side of the Russian 
East Asian deployment profile that needs to be fully appreciated 
to understand why Russia may be interested in adherence to a 
limited nuclear free zone in Northeast Asia.  Since 1989 and the 
fall of the Soviet Union a dramatic transformation of the 
military instrument in Russia, especially the Russian Far East, 
has occurred.  This transformation is not pretty.  It includes 
the discovery of an abandoned railway car with tactical missiles 
aboard,  Air Force pilots not being paid for more than five 
months, "the virtual disappearance of the ex-Soviet Pacific 
Fleet," and extremely low states of operational readiness by 
Russian nuclear submarines. A visit to Vladivostok reveals a 
fleet and its personnel reduced to very low operational 
standards.  The overall cumulative impact of these individual 
events will have the probable effect of reducing the corporate 
effectiveness of the nuclear instrument in the Russian Far East, 
but increase the likelihood for specific and discrete 
unauthorized events involving nuclear weapons.  It would seem to 
be imperative to reduce these possibilities as fast as possible.  
Thus, the LNFZ may prove to be useful domestically to the Russian 
Government in reducing the presence of a very worrisome element, 
and internationally by providing a new leadership role for the 
Russian Government in East Asia.  This is especially important in 
assuring the economic revitalization of the Russian Far East by 
providing an additional tie to the vibrant economies of the 
nations involved in the Zone.

China:      The location of Chinese nuclear weapons within the 
zone has become known through the excellent scholarship of the 
Nuclear Weapons Databook, Volume V.  From the information 
available in this new publication, and other sources, especially 
the IISS Military Balance, 1993-1994, it is clear that the  
Peoples' Republic of China has an ICBM force of 4-6 DF-5 missiles 
with a range of at least 13,000 kilometers, 10-15 DF-4 missiles 
with 4750 km range, and approximately 60 DF-3 missiles capable of 
reaching 2800km.  (Refer to Map 1 for locations of individual 
sites, and Appendix A for a table to provide specific site and 
weapons system information.) Warhead yields for the three classes 
of missiles are estimated to be 5 megatons (MT) for the DF-5, 3 
mt for the DF-4, and 2 mt for the DF-3s.  As Victor Gilinsky has 
opined, just focusing the world's attention on the inordinate 
size of the Chinese operational warheads would be a useful 
endeavor. While the author agrees that the use of such warheads 
is unconscionable from a tactical standpoint, they substantiate 
the declaratory statements of the PRC Government of a no-first-
use policy; they have, in essence, operationalized a minimum 
deterrence policy by employing such warhead sizes.  More will be 
said later about the very unique nuclear weapons program pursued 
by the PRC. The various range capabilities of the missiles 
reflect an evolution of PRC threat perception and, of course, 
available technology.  The DF-3 was capable of reaching Clark Air 
Field in the Philippines; the DF-4 was designed to bring Guam and 
U.S. military facilities there under attack, but later adapted to 
the need to be able to threaten Moscow with nuclear weapons.  The 
DF- 5 has a range of between 13,000 and 15,000 km and can reach 
any target in Russia or the United States. All known locations of 
the DF-4 missile can place at risk all the major U.S. bases in 
East Asia, and even the DF-3 can challenge most U.S. Forces based 
in Japanese installations.  Of special note, again,  is the fact 
that the Chinese have exercised a considerable degree of 
restraint in deploying their strategic systems.  Over a period of 
possibly eight years, or more, they have chosen to produce and 
deploy approximately 4 to 6 ICBMs when their capability far 
exceeded that number.  Only two of these ICBM have they placed in 
hardened underground silos. The total deployment of nuclear 
weapons within the limited nuclear free zone reveals the 

-Six sites of DF-3 missiles for approximately 48 warheads

-Two (possibly 3) DF-4 sites for 9 warheads

-Three (possibly 2) DF-5 sites for 6 warheads

-Two SSBNs each with 12 DF-21 SLBMs 9 with a range of 
approximately 1700 km

-Thirty-six road mobile DF-21a missiles with 1700km range

-150 tactical warheads Within the limited NFZ we can assume a 
total of approximately 273 nuclear warheads possessed by the PLA.  
Less than 40, approximately 36, weapons can be located outside 
the zone making the total impact of this regime very severe on 
the PRC deterrent system if implemented in its original form - 
that is - that all weapons within the zone be relocated or 
removed. In the Russian case, interest in a limited nuclear free 
zone can be shown to be consistent with past declaratory policies 
and current internal imperatives.  However, in the Chinese case 
there has historically been little or no interest in regional 
arms control efforts -- with the exception of a willingness to 
negotiate regarding the Sino-Russian border.  Beijing's long 
stance regarding nuclear weapons arms control has been that until 
the major nuclear powers significantly reduced inventories, the 
PRC would not be interested in nuclear arms reduction talks. 
Beijing has also, since the end of the Cold War, increased its 
defense budget at least ten percent each year, and has adopted a 
new defense doctrine more outwardly oriented or aggressive than 
Mao's completely defensive People's War.  This new "Partial War" 
planning concept emphasizes "preparing for a war with one of 
China's other neighbors" (not Russia).  In this new concept the 
PLA is to seize the initiative at the outset of conflict and 
defeat the enemy as rapidly as possible.  Holding in mind China's 
often repeated pledge of "no first use" with regard to nuclear 
weapons, we must assume that nuclear weapons are not integrated 
into the concept of partial wars unless something unforetold 
occurred. China at this time may, however,  be interested in a 
limited nuclear free zone.  When this LNFZ proposal was first 
presented in Beijing to a March 1992 conference co-sponsored by 
the Institute for Global Concerns and CISTP, the Chinese response 
was acute, adamant, and severe.  No Chinese involvement!  
However, a year later, March 1993, a perceptible and positive 
change had taken place. (One week prior to the North Korean 
announcement of possible withdrawal from the NPT regime.)  Thus, 
even though the LNFZ concept involves a disproportionate number 
of its limited nuclear resources, the PRC may be willing to 
discuss such a concept (with the aim of minimizing its impact on 
its deterrent forces) in order to be assured that the other 
nations in East Asia, especially Japan and North Korea, would not 
take a full nuclear option in the future.  Of course, involvement 
as a major player in such a regional or sub-regional system would 
assure the PRC formative access to a new process that would 
ultimately pay back handsome economic development dividends.

The United States:  In recognition of a new international 
situation after the end of the Cold War, President George Bush in 
September 1991 made the unilateral decision to remove tactical 
weapons from U.S. ground and naval forces worldwide.  This new 
policy removes operational deployments of tactical nuclear 
weapons from Northeast Asia - both land and sea-based.  U.S. 
strategic systems are not located in the zone, but eight Trident 
submarines do operate out of Bangor, Washington, with the Trident 
1 C4 missile. It is unlikely initially that official U.S. policy 
will support the creation of a limited NFZ in NEA without some 
significant groundswell of support for the idea coming out of 
Asia first.  With regard to nuclear free zones, it has long been 
U.S. policy to support those that are developed, mature and are 
supported by the states of the region involved.   In this case, 
the states of the region are focusing on possible nuclear 
proliferation in the DPRK and are not looking at the root causes 
of North Korean action.  Also, there is no developed track record 
of these particular states working closely in such a venture. 
While the notion that such a regime cannot be attempted in Asia 
has been heard by this author, it does involve certain evidence 
of mental entrapment.  Additionally, there are issues involving 
the "innocent free passage" of naval vessels through the zone 
that will make the U.S. reluctant to declare this status when 
traveling in international waters but still within the zone.  The 
U.S. Navy will have to be convinced that, in essence, the 
restrictions possible under such a zone are in the national 
interest, even though some slight operational restrictions may 
have to be endured. The United States must address the limited 
nuclear free zone concept as a method to begin the building of a 
security community in NEA so that American influence can remain 
supportive over the long-term, but not "overly" involved.  It is 
a way to begin sharing leadership through, first, the mechanism 
of the verification agency, and later, other security areas as 
trust and transparency materialize from the day-to-day operation 
and interaction of the Agency staff. A Realistic Limited NFZ for 
NEA: In presenting this concept to specialists of the two nuclear 
weapons states of the region, it is clear that a total ban and 
removal of all nuclear weapons from the zone would not be 
initially acceptable.  Certain weapon system exceptions would 
have to be made.  These modifications in the original total ban 
could include all SSBNs and their associated SLBMs.  Thus, in the 
case of Russia, the approximately 9 SSBNs reportedly operating 
out of Pavlovskyoe, near Vladivostok in the Maritime Province, 
would be exempted from the first phase of regime implementation, 
and would be permitted to remain in the Zone. In the Chinese 
case, it would be appropriate to exempt their two SSBNs possibly 
operating out of Qingdao, as submarine launched missiles 
admittedly are a more stable and generally recognized retaliatory 
form of weapons system.  However, in the Chinese case, it will be 
noticed (Refer to Map 1) that all of the sites identified as DF-5 
(ICBM) installations are quite within the Zone.  If this is, in 
truth the case, it would seem very unlikely that the PLA and PRC 
would ever agree to the inclusion of such installations in the 
first phase of a limited NFZ. Likewise, the two DF-4 sites, 
missiles with a range of approximately 4800km would be likely 
candidates for exemption from the first phase.  For those who ask 
"why exempt DF-4s and DF-5s?" the author would reply that these 
systems place at risk U.S. forces and political centers in the 
United States itself. To realize their elimination, of course, is 
in the long-term interest of U.S. national security, however, 
initially, the concept of "shared risk" must be applied to Zone 
implementation so that we may transit through transparency, trust 
building, and ultimate reciprocal weapons reduction.  By 
including within the Zone, the PRC nuclear retaliatory systems 
that include the 48 DF- 3s, the  36 DF-21A road mobile 1700km 
missiles and the approximately 150  tactical (air delivered and 
artillery fired weapons) consist of over 70 percent of the 
nuclear systems within the Zone.  Under the current concept of 
the limited NFZ, these weapons could be relocated outside the 
zonal boundary.  (Of course, this is the case in the Russian 
situation as well, however, the existence of agreed upon weapons 
reduction goals under Start II makes it less likely that the 
Russians would take the opportunity to relocate strategic 
resources, just take early credit for the Year 2003 goal.  This 
is not necessarily the case for tactical weapons.  An incentive 
program for the turning in of special nuclear materials could be 
the international equivalent of the gun buy back programs now 
seen throughout cities in the United States.) Readers may be 
asking why the LNFZ concept relocates and does not destroy 
weapons not exempted within the Zone?  Ultimately, that is the 
goal, but the object initially is to create a working confidence 
building measure  (CBM) that would more accurately be termed a 
confidence building mechanism.  The fact that an international 
organization would be created, operate out of Vladivostok, and 
bring together on a regularized basis, military and civilian 
specialists of the countries concerned cannot be stressed enough.  
This does not exist in Asia.  In Europe we see deep redundancy in 
this regard.  Even Russia is becoming a Partnership for Peace 
partner of NATO.  And to some observers, I would maintain this is 
not a cultural difference, but the legacy of unfortunate historic 
political involvement and events over the past century.  The fact 
that nuclear weapons brought together such intractable foes as 
the  United States and the Soviet Union should not be overlooked.  
The same fundamental interest in controlling one of man's most 
devastating inventions can function to create a new security 
system for Northeast Asia.  To finally institutionalize the 
process of substantive arms control and arms reduction in the 
Asian area -- the only area where they have been use in anger -- 
and to use this process to build a stable security environment 
certainly must be a policy goal for all nations of the region as 
we approach the 21st Century. In discussions in April 1994 with 
members of the Russian General Staff, Russian Security Council, 
Foreign Ministry and security academics in Moscow and 
Vladivostok,  excitement and interest in the concept was evident, 
but as mentioned above a total ban of weapons within the Zone was 
seen as premature. However, the Deputy Director of the Russian 
Security Council, Colonel General Valeri Manilov, termed the 
concept "a marvellous idea that must be operationalized."  His 
concept of operationalization was to immediately focus on the 
area of and adjacent to the Korean Peninsula.  In fact, if we 
were to examine the attached chart of 500 nm circles emanating 
from the Korean Peninsula, we would observe what Manilov more or 
less considers the "operationalization" of the idea.  (See Map 2)  
His suggestion would be to immediately bring a non-nuclear zone 
to a circle immediately surrounding the Korean Peninsula, 
possibly involving some territory of Russia, China, and Japan.  A 
circle that fully inscribes all of the Korean Peninsula also 
could include Vladivostok, Qingdao, Shenyang, Hiroshima, 
Nagasaki, Kobe and Osaka and would also include the U.S. base at 
Sasebo.  There would be two SLBM test centers in the Chinese area 
as well as one DF-4 installation.  Of course, the Chinese and 
Russian SSBN bases mentioned above would be within this circle, 
but possibly exempted. Creating such a first phase would allow 
for all the required infrastructure to be created and to begin 
the all important administrative day-to-day meetings.  It would 
also have most of the ingredients of the more expanded zone that 
could be implemented by an agreed schedule -- possibly five or 
ten years. Such a delay in full zonal implementation would also 
provide the PRC with a vantage point to see if the U.S. and 
Russia achieve their agreed upon cuts for the Year 2003. Next 
Steps: It is clear from discussions in China, Japan, South Korea, 
Mongolia, Russia, and the United States  that considerable 
positive interest exists in a limited NFZ for Northeast Asia. 
However, it is clear that the details of such a concept must come 
"out of Asia," and not be seen as the child of the United States. 
The member states of the proposed zone must be present at the 
formulation of such an accord. In this light, four retired 
general officers from China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia have 
agreed to join CISTP and Georgia Tech and their American 
colleagues in a three-month examination of Pacific Security 
Issues and will focus on creating a draft agreement that will be 
placed before a student simulation of a regional LNFZ negotiation 
conference in March of 1995.  Once this is done, the four general 
officers will join in briefing their recommendations and the 
results of the simulation to interested government and academic 
circles in Washington, Boston, and San Francisco.

It would be appropriate after such a draft agreement has been 
vetted throughout the American security studies community to hold 
an international conference on neutral ground where this draft 
agreement may be debated and a possible new and further consensus 
derived. Much work has been done to realize a limited NFZ in NEA, 
but as all recognize, it will take much more.  Ultimately, there 
is no insurmountable reason why nuclear arms control and nuclear 
arms reduction should not be on the official agenda of the 
nations of East Asia.  Further, there is no insurmountable reason 
why the United States should not take a supportive role in 
husbanding this effort.  In an era when big power rivalry has 
given way to increasingly effective regional arrangements in 
other areas of the world, it is time to set our policy objectives 
higher than in the past or at present.  In this new era, we must 
free ourselves of foreign policy approaching near sighted myopia; 
we must strive to build an international security system built on 
cooperation, not confrontation.  As the Chinese say, the journey 
of 20,000 li must begin with the first step. It's time to begin.


1. Gerald Segal, "Nuclear Forces in Northeast Asia," in the 
series Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network, pp. 1-2.

2. According to The Military Balance 1993-1994, the total number 
of SS-11s in the Russian inventory has dropped to 100.  That 
makes it difficult to have 200 as indicated above in the named 

3.  See Gerald Segal, "Nuclear Forces in Northeast Asia," p. 2. 
The IISS Military Balance for 1993-1994 lists only one warhead 
for the SS-N-6 and 8 vice 2 as found in Segal's May 1994 paper. 
Of course, if the Segal figure is correct, the figures above 
increase further.

4.  Ibid., p. 2.

5.  Ibid.

6.  Presentation by Barry Blechman, 6 May 1994.

7.  As the author did in April 1994.

8.  IISS, Military Balance, 1993-1994, p. 244.

9.  Again according to the Nuclear Weapons Databook, Volume V.

10.  See the attached map for locations of the various missiles 
within the zone.  The road mobile and tactical missiles have just 
been assumed to be within the zone at this time.  See the Nuclear 
Weapons Database, Volume V.

11.  The Ministry of National Defense, The Republic of Korea, 
Defense White Paper 1993-1994, p. 47.

12.  John Garver, "Organizational Capabilities of the Chinese 
PLA," Project on the Capacity of Military Organizations: Selected 
Asian Nations. Joint Management Services, January 14, 1993, p. 7.

 13.  See Gerald Segal's assumptions regarding this matter in his 
"Nuclear Forces in Northeast Asia."  In light of the U.S. policy 
of neither confirming nor denying this situation, it will be 
assumed that tactical weapons have been removed from South Korea 
-- as asserted by the ROK President -- and are not anywhere in 
the area.

14.  See NWD 93-4 "Nuclear Alert After the Cold war," William 
Arkin and Robert Norris, Oct. 18, 1993, p. 2.

15.  Interview in Moscow, April 1994.

16.  Positive discussion have also been conducted with U.S.-based 
representatives of North Korea and Taiwan.  The author hopes to 
visit both areas soon.


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