China shares Russia’s BMD concerns

The SCO at its summit meeting on June 6-7 in Beijing is expected to come up with an assertive position with regard to the United States’ missile defence program.

The SCO stance would be supportive of Russia’s concerns over the missile defence system [BMD].

Apart from the fact that the SCO would be pronouncing on a core issue of international security that goes far beyond the limited purview of the Central Asian region which is the grouping’s traditional domain, what is of interest is China’s willingness to come out in support of the Russian concerns over the BMD issue.

Two Chinese commentaries this week underscored China’s growing anxieties about the BMD system. The fact of the matter is that China’s limited missile capability is much more vulnerable to the US’ BMD system in a near term than Russia’s far more advanced and developed capabilities.

The People’s Daily has featured an article analyzing the US’ intentions in holding two bug military exercises in the Middle East in the recent weeks in quick succession. In the Chinese estimation, the US is forming a regional alliance in the Middle East and its hyping up the threat of a nuclear Iran and interventions in Libya and Syria plus the big arms sales in the region and the strengthening of its military presence in the region, etc. underscore a multi-pronged strategy aimed at increasing its control over the Middle East.

The commentary concludes that the US intends to build BMD systems in the Middle East and Asia by roping in the regional states. Japan, South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar have been singled out. The commentary warns that the US strategy “will undoubtedly further complicate the security situation in Asia and the Middle East.”

Even more explicitly, a signed article in the government-owned China Daily, authored by Li Hong, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association brackets China and Russia as the real target of the US strategy – “China’s rapid development, Russia’s ties with the West under Vladimir Putin’s new presidency… are seen as constituting an increased security challenge to the US and NATO.”

The article explains that the US faces a, uphill task to persuade the European countries of the raison d’etre of NATO as a global security organization and invitation to select Asian countries to attend the alliance’s summit meeting in Chicago is seen as “reflecting NATO’s plan to set up some strategic strongholds in the Asia-Pacific region.” In the context, the article goes to acknowledge that some incipient contacts have taken place between China and NATO, but “the huge differences between China and NATO in ideology and values, as well as China’s non-aligned policy mean no essential progress will be achieved in bilateral cooperation.”

The article concludes, “China needs to remain highly vigilant of NATO’s development of an anti-missile defence system in Asia and its militarization of space.”

To be sure, China’s concerns are growing over the BMD issue and it is increasingly open in admitting a commonality of interests with Russia in countering the US’ plans to deploy the BMD system in Asia and the Middle East. Notably, the People’s Daily commentary made some singularly critical observations about Saudi Arabia.

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