China has threatened unspecified “countermeasures” if the United States goes ahead with plans to deploy ground-based missiles in the Asia-Pacific region, with a specific warning for Australia.
“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,” the Chinese foreign ministry’s director of arms control, Fu Cong, said.
“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,” Mr Fu was quoted as saying by AFP, naming Australia, Japan and South Korea.
“That would not serve the national security interest of these countries,” he said.
The warning comes a day after Defence Minister Linda Reynolds ruled out the possibility of the missiles being deployed in Australia.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said during security meetings in Asia over the weekend that he wanted to deploy mid-range conventional missiles in the Asia-Pacific within months.
Mr Esper and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Australian ministers in Sydney on Monday to discuss military partnerships.
Ms Reynolds told ABC radio she had discussed the issue with Mr Esper, and “he confirmed there was no ask of Australia and none was expected”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Brisbane on Monday he could “rule a line” under the proposal to host missiles, which he said had not been put to Australia and was not being considered.
Mr Esper said the US was free to deploy missiles in the region following its withdrawal last week from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
The deployment would have been banned under the INF Treaty. But it expired on Friday, with Washington saying it withdrew because of Russia’s alleged violations. Russia denies breaching the terms.
On Feb 2nd, 2019 the U.S. gave Russia six months to return to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia refused, so the treaty ends today. The U.S. will not remain party to a treaty when others violate it. Russia bears sole responsibility.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 2, 2019
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that his nation would deploy new intermediate-range missiles only if the US does, and called for urgent arms control talks to prevent a chaotic arms race.
Mr Fu said China had no intention of entering a trilateral arms control deal with the US and Russia, but would remain engaged in multilateral discussions on disarmament.