World on the brink: Beijing issues dire warning over US missile plan ‘Blatant provocation’

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made his remarks at a press conference in the Chinese capital, at which he was asked about recent remarks by Marshall Billingslea, US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, who said the US was planning to discuss deploying missiles in some Asian countries. Mr Billingsea, who was originally appointed by US President Donald Trump as Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in 2017, hinted that Japan could be one of them.

Blatant provocations at China’s doorstep

Zhao Lijian

Zhao said: “The US attempt to deploy land-based medium-range missiles is consistent with its increasing military presence in the Asia Pacific and so-called “Indo-Pacific strategy” over the past years, a typical demonstration of its Cold War mentality.

“Through its words and deeds the US has severely undermined regional and global peace and security, impacted international arms control and disarmament process, undercut mutual trust between major countries and eroded global strategic stability, which is detrimental to others and itself.”

He added: “China firmly opposes US plan to deploy land-based medium-range missiles in the Asia Pacific and deplores its frequent moves to pressure China’s neighbours and blatant provocations at China’s doorstep.

“We urge the US to follow the trend of the times, behave in a responsible way and do things conducive to regional and world peace and stability rather than doing the opposite.”

In a clear indication of the rising tensions between the two superpowers, Zhao said: “If the US is bent on going down the wrong path, China is compelled to take necessary countermeasures to firmly safeguard its security interests.

“We also call on countries in the Asia Pacific region to be soberly aware of the true intention behind and severe consequences of the US move, and refrain from acting as a pawn for the US.”

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Speaking to Japanese newspaper Nikkei last week, Mr Billingslea said the US would be talking with Asian allies about deploying missiles now under development to counter what he called the “immediate threat” posed by China’s nuclear arsenal.

He said Washington “engage in talks with our friends and allies in Asia over the immediate threat that the Chinese nuclear buildup poses, not just to the United States but to them, and the kinds of capabilities that we will need to defend the alliance in the future”.

Specifically he suggested a mid-range, non-nuclear, ground-launched cruise missile which is currently being developed in the US was exactly the kind of defensive capability that countries such as Japan will want and will need for the future.”

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The missile in question has a maximum range of just over 620 miles, meaning to be used effectively against China it would need to be deployed in Asia.

Relations between China and the West have deteriorated sharply in recent months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which is widely believed to have originated in the city of Wuhan.

UK politicians including Tobias Ellwood, chairman of Parliament’s Defence Select Committee, have also voiced concerns about Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behaviour on the world stage.

High on their list of concerns is the militarisation of numerous uninhabited islands in the disputed South China Sea.

Media reports in both China and Vietnam yesterday suggested China had deployed fighter jets and at least one bomber to the Paracel islands.

Speaking at a briefing yesterday, Le Thi Thu Hang, a spokesman for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry, said: “The fact that relevant sides sent weapons and bombers not only violates Vietnam’s sovereignty but also jeopardises the situation in the area.”

Speaking last month, China’s defence ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang said H-6G and H-6J bombers had taken part in high intensity training exercises in the area.

The drills included take-off and landing, long distance strikes and the hitting of targets above the surface of the sea.

South China claims sovereignty over roughly 90 percent of the waterway.

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