US Missile Defense Schemes Also Destabilizing Asia
July 21, 2012 • 5:05PM

In Europe, the Russians have been warning for quite sometime about the destabilizing effects of the US missile defense scheme in that part of the world, and have been responding by upgrading their own strategic capabilities. In Asia, the Chinese are responding similiarly to US plans to install missile defense systems in the Western Pacific, as well. On Wednesday, Major General Zhu Chenghu of Chinas National Defence University, speaking at a seminar in Vienna, said the US plan "undermines strategic stability." China "will have to modernize its nuclear arsenal because the deployment of a missile defense system "may reduce the credibility of its nuclear deterrence," Zhu told the seminar. "Therefore Beijing will have to improve its capabilities of survival, penetration ... otherwise it is very difficult for us to maintain the credibility of nuclear deterrence," he added.

Joseph Circincione, an American arms control expert with the Ploughshares Fund, who also spoke at the same seminar, told Reuters by email that any US military planner in Zhu's shoes would have to say the same. Planned anti-missile systems and other advanced weapons in the future could "make it theoretically possible for the US to launch a first strike on China, knock out most of its 40 or so long-range missiles and intercept any left that were launched in response," he said. "Missile defenses, however benign they appear to the side building them, always force other nations to improve and increase their offensive weapons."

Zhu is a prominent participant in military debates inside China and has long been a very outspoken critic of US policies, and but in this case, his remarks represent mainstream thinking among military layers. Chinese reaction to the US Asia pivot has, so far, been measured, but behind the scenes, the Chinese military is watching it very closely and taking appropriate measures in response.