By Kiyota Higa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
BEIJING — China and Russia have agreed to take countermeasures that may include aiming missiles at Japan or other U.S. allies in Asia in the event that the United States deploys missiles to those nations, according to sources familiar with China-Russia relations.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has long been considering deploying missiles to Asia as part of its efforts to pressure nations such as China and Russia. Tensions in the region are feared to intensify if U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration follows through with the Trump administration’s missile deployment plan.
Beijing and Moscow agreed at a high-level government meeting to take military countermeasures if the United States deployed medium-range missiles to Japan or other U.S. allies in Asia.
“There was a discussion on proceeding with the deployment of missiles aimed at the nations where missiles will be deployed,” one of the sources said.
The matter was discussed during a consultation on China-Russia strategic stability held in Beijing in late November last year with the attendance of Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
China’s Foreign Ministry had announced that during the meeting Beijing and Moscow “reached broad consensus on issues such as the international security situation, multilateral arms control and disarmament, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”
The INF Treaty was signed by the Soviet Union and the United States, but Washington withdrew from the treaty last year. The United States then announced that it would consider deploying intermediate-range missiles to Asia, which was strongly opposed by China and Russia.
Although Biden has not made it clear whether he would continue with the deployment plan, China and Russia have been taking actions to keep the incoming Biden administration in check, such as by holding joint aerial patrols over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea on Dec. 22.
Military experts believe that if the United States focused its missile deployment on Japan, Russia will deploy medium-range missiles to the Russian Far East and other such areas. China, which would have part of its country within range of Russian missiles, might also accept this.
■ Enemy of your enemy is your friend
If U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration moves forward with the deployment of medium-range missiles to Japan, what might be among the countermeasures China and Russia will take? Sasakawa Peace Foundation Senior Fellow Bonji Ohara, an expert on the military situation in East Asia, spoke to The Yomiuri Shimbun about possible scenarios. The following is excerpted from an interview with Ohara:
Though China trails the United States in intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, Beijing has an advantage in medium-range missiles because it had not been bound by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as Washington had been. However, if the United States deployed ground-launched intermediate-range missiles to Asia, it will be seen as a threat to China.
China’s objective is to prevent the U.S. deployment. Beijing will perhaps impose economic sanctions on Tokyo if Washington moves forward with the deployment to Japan. It will probably increase the number of Chinese vessels dispatched to waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and the frequency of intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters. Beijing may also launch a public opinion war, claiming that China’s missiles can target U.S. military bases in Japan. At the stage when the United States actually delivers missiles to Japan, the Chinese navy may interfere.
If China works with Russia, it will have more options to counter the U.S. missile deployment. It is quite possible that Moscow will deploy medium-range missiles to the Russian Far East. Beijing could allow this to happen or encourage the Russians to deploy them. Although China sees Russia, with which it shares a long border, as a potential threat, the country still views “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Beijing Correspondent Kiyota Higa.)