China warned yesterday it would take unspecified countermeasures if the United States goes ahead with plans to deploy ground-based intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.
The comments came days after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Washington was now free to deploy the weapons following its withdrawal last week from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
“China will not stand idly by and will be forced to take countermeasures should the US deploy intermediate-range ground-based missiles in this part of the world,” said Fu Cong, the director of arms control at the Chinese foreign ministry.
“And we also call on our neighbours, our neighbouring countries, to exercise prudence and not to allow a US deployment of its intermediate-range missiles on (their) territory,” he added, naming Australia, Japan and South Korea. “That would not serve the national security interest of these countries.”
Fu said it was important to recognise that the US is proposing to install the weapons at China’s “doorstep”. “Especially for a country that has experienced the Cuban missile crisis, I think the American people should understand China’s feelings.”
Australia on Monday ruled out the possibility of the missiles being deployed on its soil, saying Canberra had not even been asked to host them. South Korea’s defence ministry said it had not had any discussions with the US about the deployment of intermediate missiles. “We have also not internally reviewed the issue and have no plan to do so,” ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told reporters.
The INF treaty was considered a cornerstone of the global arms control architecture but the United States said the bilateral pact had given other countries, namely China free rein to develop their own long-range missiles. Esper, the new Pentagon chief, said Saturday that Washington would like to deploy the missiles “sooner rather than later”, speaking to reporters on a plane to Sydney at the start of a week-long tour of Asia.