Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend this conference in the beautiful city of Ottawa, to exchange views with our Canadian friends on some important issues related to international security and arms control. To my knowledge, this is one of a series of seminars on National Missile Defense (NMD) Canada has organized in recent months. I hope, and I am convinced, that these open discussions will help deepen people’s understanding on this issue. Now, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my personal observations.
I. Negative Consequences of NMD for International Peace and Security
The relentless development of an NMD system by the United States is, undoubtedly, a major event in today’s international politics, which will have far-reaching negative impacts on international security environment. Recently, some key members of the Bush administration have reiterated on different occasions that they will, as promised during the election campaign, intensify this program. This is very disturbing.
Firstly, the development and deployment of NMD by the United States will jeopardize global strategic balance and stability, and undermine mutual trust and cooperation among major powers. To develop and deploy NMD, the United States has to first overcome a legal “barrier”, namely, the ABM treaty concluded between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in 1972, which explicitly prohibits the deployment of a nationwide missile defense system. For the past decades, this treaty has served as a corner stone of global strategic balance and stability. The compliance of this treaty has been the prerequisite for the strategic nuclear weapons reductions as claimed by the two nuclear superpowers. During the Cold War, it played a pivotal role in preventing the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union from getting out of control. As a matter of fact, in the post-Cold War era today, the treaty still provides a security framework for multilateral nuclear disarmament, and for further bilateral reductions of nuclear arsenals by the U.S. and Russia. Though bilateral in nature, the strategic significance of the treaty goes far beyond the scope of the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship. It has been universally recognized as playing an indispensable role in maintaining global strategic stability, promoting nuclear disarmament and enhancing international security. If, however, the treaty is amended, as requested by the U.S., it would certainly lose all its significance, and the global strategic balance and stability would be the victim.
Over the years, the international situation has undergone drastic changes, but the basic international strategic configuration has remained relatively unchanged in one important aspect, i.e. the strategic balance and mutual deterrence between major powers. This is due, in no small measure, to the existence of the ABM treaty. It must be pointed out that “strategic balance” and “strategic parity” are two different concepts. A strategic balance can exist between a small nuclear-weapon state and a nuclear superpower, so long as the former possesses a second strike capability, that is, the capability to inflict unbearable damage on the latter after sustaining the first nuclear attack. The significance of the ABM treaty lies in the fact that, by prohibiting the deployment of a nationwide missile defense system, it has maintained the strategic balance between the two nuclear superpowers, by extension, has maintained to a lesser degree the strategic balance among all the nuclear-weapon states, including small nuclear powers vis-a-vis the nuclear superpowers. No matter the U.S. like it or not, the fact is that, it is precisely because of this global strategic balance that the major powers have felt compelled to address global and regional security issues through peaceful means and avoid direct confrontation with each other. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the preservation of the global strategic balance is a prerequisite for the maintenance of international peace and security. The U.S. development and possible deployment of NMD poses a serious challenge to the already fragile global strategic balance. Such a move will disrupt the existing strategic equilibrium among major powers, and jeopardize the security interest of other countries. This will undoubtedly arouse suspicion and mistrust among major powers, hampering their coordination and cooperation in international security affairs.
Secondly, the U.S. NMD program will severely hinder the international arms control and disarmament process and even trigger a new round of arms race. The balance of power among major countries, and the global strategic balance based thereon, constitutes the prerequisite for progress in the international arms control and disarmament process. Once this strategic equilibrium is disrupted, the arms control and disarmament process will inevitably become stagnated and even reversed. If the ABM treaty is amended as insisted by the U.S. and the deployment of NMD legitimated, the basis of global strategic stability will be removed. This will bring about fundamental changes to the international security environment. Against this background, who can be sure the existing arms control treaties will continue to be complied with? And who can guarantee that the new arms control negotiations will go smoothly?
The reductions of their nuclear arsenals by the U.S. and Russia through bilateral agreements and/or unilateral initiatives are welcome and should be encouraged. However, we should also recognize that reduction of surplus nuclear weapons with “overkill” capabilities, is little more than the rationalization of their nuclear force structure, and is a far cry from nuclear disarmament in its real sense. As the only superpower, the U.S. already possesses the strongest military force and most advanced nuclear arsenal, and pursues a nuclear deterrence policy based on the first use of nuclear weapons. On top of all this, this country is trying to break the taboo that has been maintained for the last 30 years in the strategic field by building a nationwide missile defense system. In this sense, NMD will become a multiplier of the U.S. strategic offensive force. And the NMD program is in essence an U.S. program of unilateral nuclear expansion, which contains the inherent danger of triggering an arms race at a higher level. In specific terms, it may start off an arms race in outer space, and may also extend the arms race from offensive weapons to defensive weapons. It is true that, at current stage, the U.S. enjoys military and technological superiority, and other countries are not in a position to compete with it. From a long-term perspective, however, it will be unrealistic to expect other countries sit on their hands while the U.S. develops NMD. They will certainly take all sorts of counter measures to safeguard their national security.
Thirdly, the U.S. NMD program will undermine the international non-proliferation regime and efforts. The U.S. claims that its development of missile defense systems is intended to counter the increasing threats posed by missile proliferation. I for one, and I don’t think I am alone here, do not share the U.S. assessment of the missile threats it is faced with. To say the least, the U.S. has over-exaggerated the missile threats from so-called “countries of concern”. Judging from their economic and technological strength, it is difficult to conclude that these countries will be able to develop, much less to deploy, missiles capable of reaching the U.S. territory in the foreseeable future. Even if, a very big “if”, these countries were capable of acquiring such capabilities, they would certainly not lose sight of the massive retaliatory capabilities from the U.S., both nuclear and conventional, not to mention the inevitable strong reactions from the international community. With all this and the fact that chemical and biological weapons have been banned by international treaties, and moreover, the NPT has been extended indefinitely, there is virtually no possibility that these countries may launch a first strikes against the U.S. In addition, the U.S. relations with these countries are not immutable. We all know that, the missile threat that the U.S. was faced with during the Cold War was many times greater than that today. If the U.S. did not find it necessary to amend and scrap the ABM treaty, there is, in my view, certainly less reason to do so today. Even if we conclude there is a danger of missile proliferation, NMD is not a solution to this problem. On the contrary, it can only aggravate it. Now, an international regime of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has by and large been established and proven. With regard to the prevention of missile proliferation, MTCR has played a certain role. With MTCR and a series of other initiatives and proposals in this field, one may say that this issue has been half-resolved. If major powers can work together, and in collaboration with the whole international community, the issue of missile proliferation can be resolved, step by step, through political and diplomatic means. The development of NMD is tantamount to “drinking poison to quench thirst”. It cannot solve the problem. Instead, it will undercut the very foundation of the international non-proliferation regime, and even stimulate further proliferation of missile.
Fourthly, the development and deployment of NMD by the U.S. will increase the weight of the military factor in international relation in detriment to international peace and security. In essence, the international debate on the NMD issue is about what kind of international order should be established, and a choice between unipolar and multipolar world. This is also a debate between two security concepts: seeking one’s own absolute security at the expense of others’ security, or seeking universal security based on international cooperation. In fact, more and more people in the world have come to realize that, the real motive behind the U.S. NMD program is to seek its own absolute military superiority and absolute security. Once NMD is deployed, no matter whether it is really effective or not, it would further strengthen the U.S. tendency toward unilateralism and the tendency to use or threaten to use force. People can imagine, after the deployment of NMD, the U.S. would not sit idly in this impregnable “Fortress America”, enjoying the clear and peaceful sky above. Its omnipresent “national interests” and its zealous “sense of mission”, will drive this NMD-shielded superpower, to embark on a crusade to seek and strike at “countries of concern” all around the world with even higher enthusiasm and adventurism. This will create more instability in the world.
History has shown that security is both mutual and relative. Real security can only be achieved if a country builds its own security on the basis of common security for all. It is a truly effective way to seek security within a framework of collective security through dialogue and cooperation on the basis of equality. Any attempt to build its own security to the detriment of the security of others, will only undermine global strategic balance and stability, thus resulting in the loss of sense of security for all. In a world where all countries feel insecure, they would seek every means to protect themselves. As a result, military factor will play a bigger role in international relations, and huge amount of financial resources and materials that would otherwise be devoted to economic development will be diverted to arms buildup. Under such circumstances, how can a country truly enjoy real security? How can the world remain stable? As a matter of fact, today and in the foreseeable future, the U.S. has and will continue to enjoy more security than any other countries.
II. NMD is not conductive to peace and security in Asia and the Pacific
Both Canada and China are located in the Pacific region, and thus are naturally more concerned about the security situation in the region. With the end of the Cold War, the situation of the region on the whole has been moving towards relaxation. Most countries in the region take the development of national economy and the improvement of living standard of people as their priority task. To that end, they have made great efforts in building a peaceful and stable regional environment. Thanks to joint efforts of countries concerted, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the “Shanghai Five” and other mechanisms of dialogue and cooperation on regional security are in the steady process of development. They have played an active role in promoting mutual understanding and trust among countries concerned and in safeguarding regional peace and stability. Meanwhile, bilateral exchanges and consultations between countries of the region have also gradually increased. It has become the main trend of the region to strengthen dialogue, promote understanding, build mutual trust, and resolve issues through bilateral and multilateral coordination and cooperation. In particular, with the relaxation of tension in the Korean Peninsula, the situation in this region is further evolving toward peace.
At the same time, however, factors detrimental to peace and development in Asia and the Pacific still exist. As an important component of global security structure, security in this region is closely related to the overall international security situation. The implementation of NMD program by the U.S. will not only undermine global strategic balance and stability, but also disrupt efforts for security in the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, the U.S. also intends to deploy Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) in the region. Research and development of TMD per se may not necessarily constitute a violation of the ABM Treaty. But, the crucial question is how large is the scale and what are the nature and function of TMD that the U.S. is prepared to deploy in Asia. If this TMD can be used as part of NMD and constitute the front deployment of NMD in the region, then its adverse impact on regional security and stability will be no less than the NMD itself.
It is obvious that countries in Asia and the Pacific have many common or similar views on the issue of missile defense and have much at stake. It is the aspiration of most countries in the region that global and regional strategic balance and stability should be maintained; that mutual trust and cooperation among major powers will be enhanced; that common security for all countries will be ensured; that individual country should not seek absolute security for itself at the expense of others; that existing arms control achievements will be consolidated and cooperation in this area will be strengthened; that the U.S.-Russia bilateral nuclear disarmament process will not be reversed; that non-proliferation issue will be resolved through political and diplomatic means; and that the tendency towards unilateralism in international relations should be held at bay.
III. China’s position on Missile Defense
China needs peace and is eager to see the maintenance of global and regional peace and security. For that reason, China is firmly opposed to the proposed NMD
What I want to emphasize here is that China does not want to see a confrontation between China and U.S. on the NMD issue nor an arms race between two countries. We oppose the NMD because we hope that the existing mutual deterrence between the two countries can be preserved. This does not in any way imply that we intend to threaten the security of the U.S. with our nuclear weapons. But, on the other hand, China should have the necessary and sufficient means of self-defense, so that we will not be bullied and blackmailed by any other countries again. China will not allow its legitimate means of self-defense to be weakened or even taken away by anyone in anyway. This is one of the most important aspects China’s national security.
Since the 1960’s, China has been forced to develop its own limited nuclear force due to the repeated nuclear blackmails it has encountered. During the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958 and the border conflict between China and the Soviet Union in 1969, the U.S. and the Soviet Union respectively threatened for several times to strike China with nuclear weapons. To survive, China had no other choice. Because China developed its own nuclear weapons against such a special historical backdrop, China has never intended to threaten other countries with nuclear weapons. For that reason, on the very first day when China came into possession of nuclear weapons, China solemnly declared that under no circumstance would China be the first to use nuclear weapons. As is known to all, though China’s nuclear arsenal is the smallest and least advanced among the five nuclear powers, China is the first to pursue the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, we have been pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace, consistently developed good relationship with its neighbors and followed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in handling its relations with other nations. History has demonstrated that China’s possession of nuclear weapons has not changed its peaceful foreign policy.
In the past two years, the UN General Assembly has twice adopted the resolution on “Preservation of and Compliance with the ABM Treaty” with an overwhelming majority. This fully demonstrates the international community’s political will against the deployment of NMD and the amendment of the ABM treaty. It is particularly regrettable that, despite the widespread international and domestic opposition, the new U.S. administration would still stick to the NMD program. We sincerely hope that the U.S. government could heed the appeal of the international community, abandon the NMD program, return to the framework of collective security and join the international efforts to maintain the global strategic balance and stability as well as the system of international arms control treaties.
*Sha Zukang is Director-General of the Department of Arms Control & Disarmament and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.