NEVER MISCONSTRUE CHINA’S TRUE COLORS IN ITS “NEW COLD WAR” WITH AMERICA
The world has indeed entered an era of a “new cold war.”
Declaring that he will pull out from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed with the former Soviet Union, President Trump told the press after a rally in Elko, Nevada:
“Russia has violated the agreement…We’ll have to develop those weapons (intermediate-range cruise missiles) unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons…”
Trump stressed several times that it was important for “Russia and others to get smart” and abandon intermediate-range nuclear missiles altogether.
We can be certain that by “others” Trump meant the Chinese and that he sees little possibility of China abandoning its intermediate-range missiles.
Asked if he really is exiting the landmark arms control agreement, Trump replied, “Yes, I am pulling out of the treaty,” boasting that, with a military budget exceeding $700 billion, the US is more than capable of building a solid nuclear force to cope with both China and Russia.
The agreement to abolish intermediate-range nuclear forces, signed by Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev, called for the US and the Soviet Union to completely abolish cruise missiles with a range of up to 3,400 miles. After the Soviet Union collapsed and became Russia, Washington and Moscow continued to honor the treaty, and by 2001 the elimination of all INF stockpiles in both countries had been verified.
BY 2014, however, the Putin administration had developed the Novator 9M729 land-based cruise missile, thought to have a range between 300 and 3,500 miles. President Obama denounced it as a violation of the INF Treaty. The Russians denied having developed such a missile. Now, Trump is squarely taking on the Russians on this issue, declaring in no uncertain terms that the US will brook no such violations.
Last July 16 when he met Putin for a summit in Helsinki, Trump had virtually no understanding of the INF treaty. But he has since learned much. Following the counsel of his top aides, including Department of Defense officials and National Security Advisor John Bolton, Trump is now sternly condemning Russia for violating the treaty. America’s national security policies today are benefitting from increased input from experts such as these.
New Types of Chinese and Russian Nuclear Capabilities
What is notable about Trump’s “exit” announcement from the INF treaty is that he is targeting not only Russia but China, which he views with grave suspicion.
Utilizing its position as a non-signatory to the INF treaty, China has steadily been developing, and deploying, a wide range of weaponry, including intermediate-range nuclear missiles. As a result, the US has been left out as the only nation among the US-Russia-China trio that is not equipped with these missiles.
Over the past two years, security experts in the Trump administration have become increasingly concerned about this disadvantage. That Trump’s decision to exit the treaty in fact reflects the fundamental security policy of his administration, not a personal impulsive act, is clear from the National Security Strategy he announced in 2017 and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) 2018, issued last February by the Department of Defense.
The former document sternly criticizes China and Russia for challenging “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” Meanwhile, the latter notes: “The US has reduced the nuclear stockpile by over 85 percent since the height of the Cold War and deployed no new nuclear capabilities for over two decades. Nevertheless, global threat conditions have worsened markedly since the most recent 2010 NPR, including increasingly explicit nuclear threats from potential adversaries.” It further stressed:
“While the US has continued to reduce the number and salience of its nuclear weapons, others, including Russia and China, have moved in the opposite direction. They have added new types of nuclear capabilities to their arsenals, increased the salience of nuclear forces in their strategies and plans, and engaged in increasingly aggressive behavior, including in outer space and cyber space.”
Especially intriguing and persuasive is a chart entitled “Nuclear Delivery Systems Since 2010” on page 8 of the latter document showing how many such systems have been under development or have already been deployed in the US, China, and Russia since 2010. Several types of ground, sea, and air delivery systems are listed for Russia and China as opposed to just one (air-launched system) for the US.
The Russian section shows two types of ground-launched systems that have freshly been fielded—S27Mod2 (ICBM) and SSC-8. It also shows four different submarine-launched delivery systems, including SSN32 and SSN30, and an air-launched Kh102 system which has already been fielded. This section also lists seven other ground-, sea-, and air-launched delivery systems under development.
As for China, five ground systems are shown as either under development or having already been deployed—the same number as Russia—along with four sea systems, one less than Russia.
Meanwhile, the chart shows no ground- or sea-launched systems for the US. Honoring the INF treaty, the US has refrained from developing or deploying any of these delivery systems since 2010. In fact, F35A fighters have been the only notable major addition to US armaments.
By contrast, China’s military buildup has been ferocious. Prior to incorporating nuclear missiles, Beijing already had planned scenarios for control over the so-called “first and second island chains” east of China in case of a conflict with the US. In these scenarios, China would quickly land forces in Taiwan, the Senkakus, and other islands through its A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) strategy, deterring the advance of American troops.
To that end, the Chinese would employ asymmetrical war tactics as necessary. For instance, they would plan to deploy a number of submarines carrying ballistic missiles, instead of pitting their scarce aircraft carriers against the superior American carrier strike group.
The Chinese believe that, compared with carriers, submarines are much smaller and far less costly to build. Besides, once submerged, they would be extremely difficult to detect. Based on such thinking, the Chinese have increased their submarines to 71, against America’s 69. Japan has 16.
Totally unrestricted by the INF treaty, China has managed to deploy the Dong-Feng anti-ship DF21D ballistic missiles with a range of 2,200 miles. These missiles are referred to as “carrier killers”: when launched from a submarine, each missile splits into several smaller warheads that effectively deter interceptor missiles.
Meanwhile, the DF26 missiles with a range of 188 to 3,125 miles are known as “Guam killers.” In any case, the fact remains that the US currently is devoid of these intermediate-range missiles that Russia and China have in abundance.
Considering the circumstances, one cannot but admit there is ample reason for Trump’s decision to exit the treaty. How the current situation will evolve remains uncertain, but one probably should view Trump’s determination as firm.
Japan, whose security depends heavily on its alliance with the US, must well recognize the fact that the US now regards China with as much heightened wariness as Russia. As a trade war has started with China, so will America’s new cold war likely deepen with Russia and China.
British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson has stated that his country “stands absolutely resolute with Washington” in demanding that Russia respect its INF treaty obligations. At this important juncture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is slated to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping for a summit in Beijing on October 26. One earnestly hopes that Abe will not fail to recognize the true colors of China, refraining from assuming too lax a posture towards Xi. It is essential that he unequivocally state to his Chinese counterpart Japan’s position on the e critical issues of international trade, security, and human rights in Asia. (The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 825 in the November 1, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)