China Warns U.S. on East Asian Missile Defense Cooperation

By Diamond, Howard | Arms Control Today, January/February 1999 | Go to article overview

China Warns U.S. on East Asian Missile Defense Cooperation


Diamond, Howard, Arms Control Today


AMID GROWING concern in Washington about missile proliferation in Asia and Chinese espionage in the United States, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright left on February 28 for two days of meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing. Although her mission is primarily economic in nature, Albright is expected to try to reassure Beijing about the administration's missile defense plans and to press China to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Senior Chinese officials, alarmed by the administration's interest in deploying theater missile defenses (TMD) in East Asia, have begun warning of profound strains in U.S.-Chinese relations if U.S. missile defense plans include Taiwan or undermine Beijing's own strategic deterrent. In an interview in the February 1 Defense News, Ambassador Sha Zukang, director-general of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament in China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that China was not concerned about "what we call genuine TMD." Rather, explained Sha, "What China is opposed to is the development, deployment and proliferation of antimissile systems with potential strategic defense capabilities in the name of TMD that violate the letter and spirit of [the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty] and go beyond the legitimate selfdefense needs of relevant countries."

Since North Korea's launch of its threestage Taepo Dong-1 missile in August 1998, Washington has talked with officials from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan about development of an East Asian missile defense capability. Sha warned that inclusion of Taiwan in a U.S. TMD system would constitute "a serious infringement of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and would lead to "severe consequences."

Further, on February 25 the Financial Times quoted an unnamed senior Chinese official who protested that creation of a U.S.-East Asian missile defense would be inconsistent with the MTCR and would thus entitle Beijing "not to follow the rules of this regime and undertake cooperation on missiles and missile technology with third countries." In a January 12 speech in Washington, Sha argued that "many of the technologies used in anti-missile systems are easily applicable in offensive missiles" and termed potential U.S. cooperation with Japan or Taiwan on TMD a form of missile proliferation. …

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