Ballistic missile defense (BMD) is both expensive and largely unproven;1 so on what basis might we judge its value? This article offers a US perspective about the utility of BMD in support of Korean security. At the regional level, it is a logical hedge in a modern security environment filled with long-range precision weapons. On the Korean Peninsula, it is a responsible counter against the growth and consolidation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. And within the US-ROK alliance, it increases the likelihood of US commitment to the ROK in the event of a crisis or conflict on the peninsula. Beyond these rational, material incentives to pursue BMD in the ROK, there is also an overwhelming ideational consideration: in light of Chinese warnings against pursuing certain types of BMD, officials in the United States and around the region may view ROK decisions about BMD as a leading indicator of loyalty in a long-term strategic competition between China and the United States. In this way, BMD in Korea is about far more than Korea.
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