North Korean nuclear tests

US missile intercept ‘may spark arms race’: Chinese state media

Successful destruction of ballistic missile in test shifts balance of deterrence and may lead other nations to upgrade their military technology, says People’s Daily outlet

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 4:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 10:32pm

A state media outlet in China has expressed dismay over the United States test to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it may trigger a new arms race.

The US military fired a test missile from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific towards the Alaskan coast and launched an interceptor missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday. The test ended in a head-on strike, it said.

The US Missile Defence Agency said the exercise was based on intelligence about North Korea and Iran’s future missile capability. The test came amid increasing concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

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A commentary published on the social media account of the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily late on Wednesday said the success of the US test had “opened a Pandora’s box”.

A change in the balance in nuclear deterrence would change the mindset of other nuclear powers, “which has increased, rather than decreased the risk of a nuclear war”, the commentary said.

“I’m afraid this time, what the US has done will indeed start a new round of an arms race,” it said, as other nations upgrade their missile technology.

The test comes as China has already expressed anger of the deployment of a US-developed missile shield in South Korea to counter the threat of North Korea’s missile programme. Beijing says the system poses a threat to its own security.

Zhou Chenming, a Chinese military expert, said: “This move was most directly targeting North Korea, but surely it also targeted Russia and China. An arms race has long begun … although the Chinese authorities hate to use the word arms race, saying their weapon development is for their own needs, not for competition.”

Zhao Tong, a fellow in the nuclear policy programme at the Beijing-based Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said Beijing was worried about the US’ missile defence system because its nuclear security strategy tended towards responding to attack with a second strike.

“China worries about the impact the US missile defence system would have on China’s counter strike capability. It’s China’s biggest concern. To deal with that China would develop new ground-based, sea-based or multi-head missiles,” said Zhao.

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has been developing its capability against a US missile defence system.

Most notably this includes a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle, Wu-14, capable of carrying nuclear warheads and travelling at 10 times the speed of sound to bypass US missile defence systems.

China also test fired in January the Dongfeng-5C, an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads.

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Zhou said China should not follow the American step by allowing a missile arms race to affect its own strategic judgment and plans, particularly increasing security as it develops trade ties to Asia and beyond in its “Belt and Road” initiative.

“Otherwise China will fall into diplomatic disadvantage,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang