China vows countermeasures to new US missiles

Criticises US' INF withdraw, warns US against new missile deployments to Asia

Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney.

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The United States officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) last Friday (Aug 2). See my note “China and INF's deathfor background.

A day after its withdraw, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that the Pentagon would deploy ground-based intermediate-range conventional missiles to Asia.

On Tuesday (Aug 6), China responded (through head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ arms control area) with the following key points:

  1. US unilateral withdraw from INF will have a direct negative impact on global security and arms control;

  2. China is worried about possible new US missile deployments to Asia, and will take certainly take countermeasures if that is to occur;

  3. China calls regional countries to reject hosting these missiles, which is not in their interest;

  4. China will not participate in any trilateral nuclear arms reduction negotiations with US and Russia given that China’s relatively small arsenal.

Essentially, Beijing believes that the US is using “Russia’s violation” and “China not being bound by the treaty" as pretext for INF withdrawal so that it is free to upgrade missile capabilities. In fact, in Beijing’s view, US withdraw from INF and the Iran deal has “fundamentally shaking the basis of the arms control regime”.

Beijing sees possible new US missile deployments to its doorstep as very provocative and dangerous, especially because of exisiting US military advantages. It is a part of wider efforts by the US to counter China’s rising military power. Beijing repeatedly emphasised assured countermeasures, but did not go into details.

However, it did warn neighbouring countries to not host new US missiles, implying that Beijing will retaliate. One past example is how Beijing responded to US THAAD antimissile system deployments to South Korea in 2016/2017 (with punitive economic measures against Seoul).

This issue will likely heated up as we move closer to new US missile deployments to Asia in the next six months.