Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 50

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters yesterday that China and Russia have consulted on the issue of a U.S. proposal to develop a Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system in Asia. The Chinese spokesman provided no details of the Russian-Chinese talks and refused to say what actions the two countries might be considering in response (AP, Reuters, March 11).

But unnamed Russian government sources were quoted yesterday as saying that talks between Moscow and Beijing on the U.S. TMD plan had begun at least as early as during a trip to China taken last October by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev (see the Monitor, October 23). Since that time, the sources said, the issue has been raised regularly in talks between military and political leaders of the two countries. Russia and China will likely make a decision to adopt a joint approach to the TMD issue, the Russian sources said, and could possibly ask Japan and the United States to terminate development of the TMD program.

The U.S.-Japanese missile defense proposal is also to be on the agenda during a visit to Moscow by China’s defense chief, scheduled for April of this year, the sources said. They suggested, in addition, that Sergeev would raise the issue during a visit to India this spring (Russian agencies, Kyodo, March 11). In recent months Moscow has tried–with little evidence of success–to turn its separate “strategic partnerships” with China and India into a three-way political partnership of some sort which would stand in opposition to the United States and NATO.

As news reports yesterday pointed out (Reuters, AP, March 11), though Russia and China are united in their opposition to the Asian missile defense plan and warn that it will upset the strategic balance in the region, they have expressed their opposition in different ways. Beijing has tended to focus on the possibility that a U.S.-Japanese missile defense umbrella might be extended to cover Taiwan. Beijing fears that the project could also bring U.S. military personnel to Taiwan. Russia has tended instead to focus on the TMD plan as a threat to the 1972 ABM Treaty and thus as a threat to strategic stability. Russia has also expressed concerns over a recent upgrading of the broader Japanese-U.S. defense relationship. Among other things, Moscow has demanded to know whether Russian territory is included in the area of Japanese-U.S. military cooperation as it is now defined (see the Monitor, February 12).