China vows to counter US deployment of mid-range weapons in Asia

Updated August 07, 2019

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A US fighter jet takes off from the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan,  for patrol in international waters off South China Sea on Tuesday. — AP
A US fighter jet takes off from the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, for patrol in international waters off South China Sea on Tuesday. — AP

BEIJING: China said on Tuesday that it “will not stand idly by” and will take countermeasures if the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region, which Washington has said it plans to do within months.

The statement from the director of the foreign ministry’s Arms Control Department, Fu Cong, follows the US’s withdrawal last week from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a move Fu said would have a “direct negative impact on the global strategic stability” as well as security in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Fu said China was particularly concerned about announced plans to develop and test a land-based intermediate-range missile in the Asia-Pacific “sooner rather than later,” in the words of one US official.

“China will not stand idly by and be forced to take countermeasures should the US deploy intermediate-range ground-based missiles this part of the world,” Fu told reporters at a specially called briefing.

He also advised other nations, particularly South Korea, Japan and Australia, to “exercise prudence” and not allow the US to deploy such weapons on their territory, saying that would “not serve the national security interests of these countries.”

Fu also said China had no intention of joining nuclear weapons reduction talks with the US and Russia, pointing to the huge gap in the size of China’s arsenal compared to those of the other two. China has an estimated 290 nuclear warheads deployed, compared to 1,600 for Russia and 1,750 for the US, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

US carrier sails into disputed waters

A US aircraft carrier sailed through the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday in the latest show of America’s military might amid new territorial flare-ups involving China and three rival claimant states.

The US Navy flew a small group of Philippine generals, officials and journalists to the USS Ronald Reagan, where they watched fighter jets landing and taking off by catapult with thunderous blasts. The nuclear-powered carrier, carrying about 70 supersonic F/A-18 jets, spy planes and helicopters, was en route to Manila for a port visit. Armed cruisers kept watch a few miles (kilometres) away from the carrier.

“The motto of this carrier is peace through strength,” Rear Adm. Karl Thomas told journalists.

He said the American military presence helps provide security and stability that foster diplomatic talks among rival claimant nations. He made the comment when asked what message the warship’s presence was sending amid new tensions involving China and rival claimants Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines over long-contested territories. “We just think that folks should follow the international law and our presence allows us to provide that security and stability in the background for these discussions to take place,” Thomas said.

China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have been locked in on-and-off territorial conflicts over the strategic waters, where a bulk of Asian and world commerce transits, for decades. Tensions rose to new highs when China transformed seven disputed reefs in the Spratly chain into islands and then installed a missile-defence system, runways and hangars.

Last month, Washington expressed concerns over China’s “repeated provocative actions aimed at the offshore oil and gas development of other claimant states.” Vietnam has demanded that China remove a survey ship from Vanguard Bank, which it says lies within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2019