U.S. missile defense may backfire if too robust

By Phil Stewart
November 10, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. missile defense system that is too robust could actually backfire and become destabilizing, prompting countries like China to expand their nuclear arsenals, a U.S. general said on Tuesday.

Air Force General Kevin Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, did not question the current system, which was revised by President Barack Obama and the Pentagon in September.

But he explained that careful calculations would be needed when boosting U.S. defenses in the future to guard against threats from countries like North Korea.

“We have to be cautious with missile defense. Missile defense can be destabilizing depending on how you array it,” Chilton told a defense gathering in Washington.

He outlined a scenario that he said “I don’t think any of us want to see” in which hundreds of interceptors were deployed along the Western side of the United States.

“That kind of makes you feel more secure, doesn’t it? But what would it make the Chinese think about their deterrent?” Chilton asked.

“That might encourage them to in fact double, triple, quadruple their current nuclear forces. Because they would feel that their deterrent was no longer viable.” …