22 March 2013, 00:09

China concerned over Obama flexibility on missile defense

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A week ago, the United States announced a decision to reorient the planned missile defense system to North Korea’s direction. In this connection, a step was made to scrap the fourth phase of its missile defense system in Europe. It means that no SM-3IB missile interceptors will be deployed on the territories of Poland and Romania by 2020.

This factor may enable Russia to finally op its perennial spat with America over a spate of painful issues related to missile defense, according to Richard Weitz, columnist from World Politics Review and senior fellow with Hudson Institute in Washington. Weitz argues that the problem may be resolved by Russia paying no attention to further development of the US missile defense system in Europe. The previous three stages of this system will soon be completed, while the fourth phase will be transformed into the deployment of additional 14 interceptors in Alaska and the second radar station in Japan. Also, Washington is mulling creating one more interceptor base in California in the future.

Moscow has seen no concessions to Russia because the United States actually refused to change its stance on missile defense. The Russian Foreign Ministry said, for its part, that the latest changes in the US missile defense program are out of line with Moscow’s demands regarding Washington giving legally binding guarantees to Russia that this program is not aimed at Russia’s deterrent.

In an interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Thursday, Pavel Zolotarev, deputy head of the Moscow-based Institute for US and Canadian Studies, said that Washington’s decision to scrap the fourth phase does not mean that this phase will never be developed.

"The matter is that President Obama has announced the so-called adaptable approach to the deployment of the missile defense system, something that will take into account different threats emanating from various directions. In this sense, the latest decision on missile defense reflects Obama’s adherence to this approach. On the other hand, the decision comes amid the ongoing economic woes in the United States, where budget cuts may be in the pipeline."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that during his talks with US counterpart Rose Gottemoeller in Geneva earlier this week, the Russian side was presented with new information about missile defense. According to Ryabkov, repercussions of the US administration’s latest decision are yet to be assessed as far as Russia is concerned.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned that beefing up US missile defense system in the Asia-Pacific region is unlikely to resolve a potential nuclear threat from North Korea and will instead cause escalation of tensions.

In the current state of affairs, Russia may capitalize on the balance of forces, says Ivan Konovalov, head of the Center of Strategic Environment. With China set to be involved in the missile defense discussion, this factor may be used to further expand relations between Moscow and Beijing. Americans have got a third opponent concerning missile defense, while Russia has got an additional space for maneuvering so as to solve political problems pertaining to Russian-US ties.

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