China: May 16, 2000


China has warned that US plans to build a missile defense shield will spark a new arms race. According to the Chinese, the possibility of North Korea or Iran firing a missile at the US is inherently ridiculous, as US retaliation would reduce those countries to burning ruins. The US has insisted that as its planned defense system can deal with at most 60 missiles, it is no threat to the Russian deterrent. But China, which has only a dozen missiles able to hit the US, has regarded these missiles as an effective "symbolic deterrent" since any US attack that destroyed China would come at the cost of a dozen destroyed US cities, a price that China assumes the US is unwilling to pay. But a defensive system that could stop China's entire arsenal would, according to Beijing, open up that country to nuclear blackmail from the US. "This is intolerable" a Chinese official recently declared. The Chinese say that they will have to spend billions increasing their arsenal to 100 or more missiles.--Stephen V Cole


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