People's Daily Monday, June 05, 2000

NMD System Hinders Nuke Disarmament

The United States' development of a missile shield would upset the world strategic balance and hinder the process of international nuclear disarmament.

Sha Zukang, director-general of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an interview said that the US development of a so-called National Missile Defence (NMD) system "would be tantamount to a nuclear arms build up."

Sha said that the missile shield would "severely damage" the integrity and vitality of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty and global strategic balance and stability.

Also threatened would be the basis for US-Russia bilateral nuclear reductions, he said.

Given the significant role of the United States and Russia, two nations with the biggest nuclear arsenals in the world, the US action would impede the international nuclear disarmament process, and, in turn, shatter the prerequisite and basis for international nuclear non-proliferation, Sha said.

Russia, after ratifying the Strategic Arms Reduction (START II) accord early this year, declared that if the United States undermines the 1972 ABM treaty, it will withdraw other arms control agreements.

The United States' development of an NMD project would require the renegotiation of the ABM Treaty it signed with the former Soviet Union in 1972. The treaty allows each country to have only one regional missile defence system.

"Russia's ratification of the START II and CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty) has created a ray of hope for the nuclear disarmament process," said Sha, adding that "We hope that the countries concerned will seize this opportunity and get back on the right track of arms control and disarmament."

After years of stalemate, world efforts for nuclear disarmament took a turn for the better this year when Russia ratified the START II and the CTBT.

"We look forward to the early implementation of this treaty ( START II), and the initiation of the START III negotiations," said Sha.

Stressing that nuclear disarmament is a "comprehensive " and " irreversible process", Sha urged the United States and Russia to faithfully implement the obligations for nuclear disarmament.

"If only reducing obsolete nuclear weapons while enhancing nuclear weapon capabilities, or reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons while putting the reduced nuclear warheads into a so-called 'inactive reserve' that allows them to be maintained or even renewed, ready for redeployment at anytime, such a practice by no means amounts to genuine nuclear disarmament," said Sha.

The development of an NMD system, which the US side maintains would be designed to safeguard its national security, has caused concern from China and a number of other countries.

China has on several occasions warned that the United States' insistence on NMD system development would inevitably affect China 's arms control policy.

Sha stressed that China would only participate in arms control negotiations, particularly those on nuclear arms control.

China is the only one of five nuclear powers that pledges no- first-use of nuclear weapons. It has also promised that it would never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states or nuclear-weapons free zones.

Disarmament should be conducive to the enhancement of all countries' common security, never becoming a tool employed by a few States to strengthen their military superiority," said Sha.