Sino-american relations: Nuclear weaponry, the Johnson administration, and the antiballistic missile system in the 1960s
Huntington, John S.
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The research presented in this thesis is centered on nuclear weaponry and its profound impact on global relations during the height of the Cold War. China sent significant ripples through the international community when it embarked on its own nuclear testing program, and the Johnson administration was forced to react to prevent an international loss of prestige, to reassure the American people, and to prevent further widespread proliferation. The American government initially believed that China's nuclear testing process was simply a symbolic political and psychological issue rather than a direct military threat, and to counter China's play for global power the Johnson administration sought to minimize the effects of the nuclear test in late 1964. However, the damage was irreversible because of the weight carried by nuclear weaponry during the Cold War, and many foreign nations began to take notice of China's improvement in status by virtue of harnessing nuclear power. This alarmed the Johnson administration because it had the potential to instigate further proliferation, and the U.S. government worked quickly to reassure foreign allies to prevent the loss of prestige and to prevent further proliferation. Over time the American government observed that China was making significant strides in nuclear technology, and the Johnson administration realized it needed to consider taking steps to negate the military potential of the Chinese. The American intelligence community was beset by intelligence gathering problems, and the United States government was forced to make policy decisions based on estimates instead of hard facts. This, along with other factors, led the Johnson administration to adopt a flexible policy that culminated with the development of an antiballistic missile system in the 1960s to counter the potential ICBM capabilities of China.