Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 206

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman yesterday said that Beijing also lacked details about the Russian test and could not confirm that it had taken place. But she placed the blame for the reported Russian exercise squarely on the United States, suggesting that U.S. missile defense plans had provoked Russia into starting what could be a new arms race (AP, November 4). The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s reaction only underlined the extent to which U.S. missile defense plans have–along with the NATO air war against Yugoslavia–driven Beijing into Moscow’s arms. The Chinese fear that even a limited U.S. national missile defense system could endanger the viability of China’s modest nuclear deterrent. Moreover, Moscow and Beijing both oppose a related U.S.-Japanese plan to develop a theater missile defense system in Asia. For Beijing, the fear there is especially that the U.S.-Japanese system could be extended to protect Taiwan.

If that were not enough, the United States this week also faced an unlikely challenge to its missile defense plans from Greenland. The prime minister of Greenland’s home rule government was quoted on November 3 as saying that it would permit the United States to make the necessary upgrades to the radar installation at the Thule air base, in northwestern Greenland, only if Washington secures Moscow’s approval for the missile defense plan. “If only one side, the United States, begins to step up [defense capabilities] a Cold War atmosphere will be created, Prime Minister Jonathan Motzfeldt said. “We don’t want Greenland to become the focal point in a Cold War” (Reuters, November 3).

Motzfeldt’s remarks reflect what appears to be some uneasiness in European capitals over U.S. missile defense plans and the possibility that they could raise tensions with Moscow. The Thule Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar System (BMEWS) at the Thule base in Greenland provides tactical warning and attack assessment of ballistic missiles launched against the United States, Canada and the UK.