Today's date:
Summer 2001


US Missile Defense Compromises Global Security

Tang Jiaxuan is the foreign minister of China. He wrote this article exclusively for NPQ's weekly column with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Global Viewpoint.

Beijing-There is no doubt that each and every state has the right to seek its security and that the government of each state has the obligation to protect its nationals. However, how to exercise this right and acquire security in its real sense is a question worth serious deliberation.

As the process of globalization develops, countries and nations are becoming increasingly interdependent. This is as true in the security area as it is economically.

Security is mutual and indivisible. No country can exist in isolation from the international community, nor can it resolve all the security issues it faces single-handedly. Inevitably, the way a country seeks security will affect the security of others and entail necessary reactions on the part of these countries.

Thus, while seeking its own security, a country should consider whether the relevant measures help increase universal security. A country can acquire security in the true sense only when it builds its own security on the universal security of all countries and on the extensive cooperation of the international community. A military edge cannot guarantee security. Unilateralism at the expense of other countries' security will only lead to greater insecurity.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles is a very complex problem that can be tackled only through global cooperation. To set up a national missile defense system, or NMD, will not contribute to solving this problem, but only further aggravate it.

Since the end of the Cold War, the international community has made considerable progress in nonproliferation. The United States and Russia reached a series of agreements on nuclear disarmament, the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into effect, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was extended indefinitely, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was concluded. Along with the Biological Weapons Convention, agreed upon in the 1970s, this shows that the final goal of eliminating weapons of mass destruction is not beyond reach.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of the international community, the proliferation momentum in missiles has to a large extent also been checked. And there are a number of proposals that promise wider international cooperation in this field.

It is therefore neither wise nor advisable to build a so-called missile defense system, whose effect is questionable, at the expense of compromising or even quitting the international arms control and nonproliferation system after so many years' efforts, including by the US.

There are some people who describe the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as part of the "Cold-War mentality" and hold that it should be discarded. This view is neither fair nor just. It is a fact that the ABM Treaty was concluded during the Cold War period. However, like all the other arms control treaties, it reflects the interdependent relationship among contracting parties in security matters. Such a relationship did not disappear with the end of the Cold War, but rather is becoming even stronger in the era of globalization. The ABM Treaty is self-evidently effective. It is not outdated.

Just as the ABM Treaty cannot be viewed in isolation, neither can a US missile defense program. Offense and defense are always indivisible. Enhanced defensive capabilities, to a large degree, mean improved offensive capabilities as well.

This is particularly true for the US, the only superpower. The US possesses the biggest nuclear arsenal and the most sophisticated conventional weapons in the world, and it pursues a nuclear deterrence policy based on first use of nuclear weapons. A missile defense will thus become a multiplier for US offensive weapons. It will severely impede the nuclear disarmament process between the US and Russia, and indeed the world at large, and will render any US initiative on the reduction of offensive nuclear weapons meaningless.

People cannot but ask what on earth is the real intention behind US insistence on developing a missile defense system in defiance of the international community? Is it really to defend against the missile threat from the few so-called "problem states," or for greater military advantages over other big countries?
Located in the Asia-Pacific, China is naturally concerned about security in this region. Recently there has been relaxation of tensions in the area, particularly in northeastern Asia, and major progress has been made in the settlement of the missile issue. All parties should cherish this hard-won state of affairs and create conditions for continued relaxation. To introduce the theater missile defense (TMD) in the region will only add new, complex and confrontational factors to the detriment of regional peace and stability.

There are people in the US who clamorously advocate incorporating Taiwan into the US TMD system or providing anti-missile weapons or technologies to Taiwan. This is a most dangerous tendency. If the US chose to do so, it would put Taiwan under the American umbrella of military protection and restore, de facto, the US-Taiwan military alliance. It would surely inflate the arrogance of the forces for Taiwan's independence, jeopardize stability in the Taiwan Straits, endanger the peaceful reunification of China and lead to serious regression in China-US relations.

China has no intention of threatening US security, nor does it seek such capabilities. China has always exercised great restraint in the development of nuclear arms. Moreover, since the first day it came into possession of nuclear weapons, China has pursued the policy of no-first-use under any conditions. China keeps a small but effective nuclear force only for the purpose of containing other countries' possible nuclear attacks. This policy will remain unchanged.

China and the US are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and shoulder common responsibility for maintaining world peace and security. A cooperative and constructive relationship between China and the US will not only serve the interests of the two countries but also have crucial impact on world stability and security.

For a long time, China and the US have engaged in fruitful cooperation over the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles. The Chinese side is ready to continue on this path with the US. But we also look forward to serious and pragmatic dialogue with the Bush administration on missile defense and related issues.

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