From the end of the last century to the beginning of this century, the United States has insisted on developing a national missile defense system and seceded from the ABM Treaty. The international community, including China and Russia, declared their opposition to Missile Defense Programs, and the UN General Assembly adopted resolutions on anti-missile issues several times, to appeal to countries concerned with stopping Missile Defense Programs. In the 21st century, disputes on missile defense are still a critical factor influencing international security and bilateral relations between relevant countries. In February 2010, the US issued the first Ballistic Missile Defense Review, and stated that the deployment of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems in Europe would be enlarged by stages, gradually upgraded to Theater Missile Defense Systems, and that the US would finally develop the capabilities of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles (IBM; ICBM). In March 2012, the US proposed that it would follow the development model in Europe and rely on both US-Japan-ROK and US-Japan-Australia trilateral dialogue mechanisms, to set up Asia-Pacific anti-missile systems in stages. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Programs in Europe, carried out by the US and NATO, have been severely criticized by Russia, and become a big barrier to the relationship among the US, NATO and Russia. Introducing Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems into Northeast Asia will hurt mutual trust among countries and regional security. In the same vein, China will not agree on it.
Both in history and at present, missile defense issues have had a profound and far-reaching influence on relations among great powers, global strategic balance and stability, international peace and security, and the process of arms control and disarmament.
First, developing Missile Defense Programs, which break global strategic balance and stability, will worsen the global security situation. From the Star Wars System to National Missile Defense Programs (NMD) and Theater Missile Defense Programs, and from Missile Defense Programs to East-European Missile Defense Programs and European Missile Defense Programs, the US has been using missile defense systems as one of its effective measures to break the global strategic balance. It declares that the purpose of establishing missile defense systems currently in Europe, Asia and the Middle East is to deal with the threats from Iran and North Korea. But, in terms of technologies, there are only limited countries with the capability of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the five UNSC permanent members. Some of the countries involved exaggerate the so-called regional missile threats purposely and develop anti-ballistic missile systems beyond the necessity of their homeland defense. Its essence is to seek unilateral military and security superiorities. Once the development of Anti-Ballistic Missile Programs breaks the stability of relations among great powers and global strategic balance, international relations will inevitably be unsafe and uncertain. Consequently, the mutual trust among great powers will be severely destroyed, and it will influence their coordination and cooperation on international affairs.
Second, developing and deploying Missile Defense Systems, which severely destroy the regional balance of power, will inevitably damage regional security and stability. Developing and deploying Missile Defense Systems in Europe and Asia-Pacific regions, which does harm to other countries’ security interests, will lead to the establishment and strengthening of self-enclosed military and political blocs, aggravate the imbalance among the countries in the region, provoke antagonism and worsen the regional security situation. NATO countries and Russia have been keeping cooperation in theatre missile defense, and four missile defense exercises were held from 2004 to 2008. But, the cooperation was affected by the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe by NATO from 2010. Recently, North Korea failed in launching a satellite, further proving that the threat from North Korea’s missiles is exaggerated and its capability is over-evaluated. Hence it is not convincing to develop Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems in the Asia-Pacific region on such pretexts.
The Asia-Pacific Anti-Ballistic Missile Programs is an important part of US new Asia-Pacific strategy, but it brings negative influences on Asia-Pacific peace, security and stability, and increases complex factors in solving relevant regional issues. First, it worsens the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. The facts in recent years have proven that the strategy of “coercing with power and containing with threats” is not effective. The Asia-Pacific Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems will raise the overall offensive and defensive level of US-Japan and other military alliances in an all-round manner, more complex political and security factors will arise, and the unstable situation in the areas concerned will become worse. Second, it increases the risks of regional military conflicts. The US keeps on expanding the scale of its Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems with the excuse of North Korea and Iran issues, resulting in the loss of a sense of security for some countries, and in their strong indignation and counter-actions, thus stimulating them to further develop their capabilities of missile striking and nuclear weapons. Third, it also does harm to China in its task of defending national unity.
Since 2008, a peaceful development of cross-Strait relations has come into being, but there is still tendency for “Taiwan independence.” Therefore, the development of Asia-Pacific Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems, especially the selling of anti-ballistic missile systems to Taiwan, sends wrong signals to the “Taiwan independence” forces, and will seriously damage the peaceful reunification across the Strait.
Third, developing Missile Defense Programs, which break global strategic balance and stability, will obstruct the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and may even trigger a new round of arms races. The global strategic balance and stability is the prerequisite to and precondition of international arms control and disarmament. Once the balance is broken, the process of arms control and disarmament will be stagnated or even reversed. With the further advancement of Missile Defense Programs, the new START between the US and Russia is facing serious challenges. Besides, the strategic unbalance will breed the danger of an arms race onto a higher level, and the continuous advancement of missile defense systems may lead the arms race to outer space. Some countries state that developing missile defense systems is directed against proliferation. But we believe that it actually adds complex factors to dealing with non-proliferation issues through political and diplomatic measures.
The current global security threats are becoming increasingly integrated, complex and volatile, international strategic competition is intensifying, and traditional and non-traditional security threats are interwoven. Facing the complex and volatile security challenges, no single country can be safe to deal with the problems alone. The history of missile defense issues has proved that neither confrontation nor arms race could solve the problems, and the way out would eventually be through dialogue and cooperation. While one’s national security interests are concerned, others’ security concerns should be respected, and the principles of keeping global strategic stability and maintaining security of all the countries should be followed. We should strike at the roots of the problems as well as their harmful effects, tackle the problems in a comprehensive way, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, try to root out the causes, and solve proliferation problems peacefully through dialogue and negotiations. China insists on the idea of overall security, cooperative security and common security, and maintains its commitment to the new security concepts of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination.
China will join hands with all other countries to build an international security environment with peace and stability, equality and mutual trust, and cooperation and win-win results.
Major General Chen Zhou is the Director of the Center for National Defense Policy, at the Academy of Military Science, PLA, China