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Chinese-Russian Joint Statement on Missile Defense

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin included the following short paragraph on missile defense in a lengthy joint statement that covered a wide variety of other topics. It appeared in the section of the statement devoted to international affairs.

With a view towards the historical experience and practice of building a new type of great power relations, and with a sense of historic responsibility for world peace and humanity’s future, the two sides call on all nations of the world to … deepen mutual understanding, coordination and cooperation on the question of missile defenses, urge members of international society to be prudent on the issues of deploying and beginning cooperation on missile defenses, and oppose one country or group of countries unilaterally and unlimitedly strengthening missile defenses, harming strategic stability and international security. We stand for the collective confrontation of the challenges and threats from ballistic missiles, preferring to confront the proliferation of ballistic missiles within the framework of international law and political diplomacy, where the security of one group of nations cannot be sacrificed at the expense of another group of nations.”

The language echoes past statements issued by Russia and China, which are concerned about the intentions driving what, from their perspective, appears to be massive U.S. fiscal and technical investments in a highly questionable technology. Neither country is particularly concerned about the technical capabilities of the currently deployed or tested missile defense technologies. Experts in both countries understand the vulnerabilities of these systems. What worries defense planners here in China, and presumably in Russia, is the almost fanatical U.S. devotion to missile defense technology. Political and military leaders see the monies spent, not the technology they have actually purchased, as sufficient cause to wonder if some surprising new breakthrough might be on the horizon. Otherwise, my Chinese interlocutors routinely ask, why would the United States be wasting so much money on it, especially in a time of supposed fiscal austerity?

The persistence of Chinese concerns about U.S. missile defense plans cannot be assuaged by pointing out the technical limitations of the current systems. They know them already.  The Obama administration should stop lecturing and start listening to what the Chinese are actually saying, which is that they don’t want to wake up one day and suddenly find themselves vulnerable to a U.S. first strike. It isn’t the reality of missile defense, but the U.S. dream of missile defense, that keeps Chinese military planners up at night.

Chinese analysts are not assured their U.S. counterparts accept the idea of mutual vulnerability between the United States and China, which is the basis of deterrence. That leads to concerns that the level of U.S. commitment to missile defense, which China believes is higher than is justified by the North Korean and Iranian threats, is credible evidence this massive, decades-old defense effort is actually focused on them.

Posted in: Missiles and Missile Defense Tags: , ,

About the author: Gregory has lived and worked in China for the better part of the last twenty-five years facilitating exchanges between academic, governmental, and professional organizations in both countries. Since joining the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2002, he has focused on promoting and conducting dialog between Chinese and American experts on nuclear arms control and space security. His areas of expertise are Chinese foreign and security policy, Chinese space program, international arms control, cross-cultural communication. He received his Ph.D. in Political Theory from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1994.

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2 Responses

  1. Why would the United States ber wasting so much money on an unreliable missile defense system?
    Well, they could be right, we cpuld be close to a technical breakthrogh making missile defense capable of stopping 100 percent of incoming missiles under any conditions. None of all the technical experts have said that this is either possible or likely.

    On the other hand, it could be that missile defense is the perfect boondoggle. President Bush started the current wave of building them by insisting that we start building even though they were unproved. This makes them a great money maker for suppliers. They could get paid for something that didn’t work, and then get paid, over and over again, for improvements. Wouldn’t you love to have such a product? The result is that the major contractors spend millions reelecting their friends on the appropriations committee to keep this boondoggle going.

    The danger is that some in the military might think that they work, which could make them careless in provocative actions. At the same time, by opening a new battlefield we are inviting some nations to invest in missile-shield-penetrating missiles. What fun! A whole new battlefield in the sky! With our damaged economy and facing the increasing violence and frequency of killer climate change, we should be directing our energies to reducing the power of climate disasters and investing in the alternative green energy systems that can save more lives and property than missile defense.

  2. On the other hand, it could be very true all the stories you see and hear on the Web and TV, hoe China has been ripping off every major military and intellectual property rights for thousands of research man hours and items to bolster their own defensive capabilities.

    Now Russia and Chine are afraid we just might be on to something BIG, and they are more then likely right, that is going to be a HUGE GAME changer that will keep America protected from Foreign invasion.

    It just might be all smoke and mirrors from the side lines, that’s how everything else started. In reality China needs to shut North Korea up with the Little Kid antics and let the World powers quit the Wars and the thought of self annihilation. Just a small wish.