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US defense chief's visit to China fails to remove controversy in Asia Pacific - Academician Arbatov

The four-day visit of US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to China has failed to remove the obvious contradictions between the two countries in their desire to dominate the Asia-Pacific Region (APR), head of the International Security Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Academician Alexei Arbatov said in an interview with ITAR-TASS, commenting on the visit that ended on Thursday.

Chuck Hagel at talks with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan said that China had no right to unilaterally introduce in the East China Sea its air defense identification zone and that the United States would defend Japan in the territorial dispute with China.

"The United States also criticizes China for the lack of transparency in the sphere of armaments. China is the only country of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and recognized nuclear powers - parties to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that provides no official information about its nuclear forces and programs for their development," said Academician Arbatov.

The Pentagon annually holds in the Pacific traditional joint military exercises with its ally South Korea. This April, these manoeuvres involved an unprecedented over the past 20 years number of marines - 12,000.

"In the Asia Pacific region, Washington places much more emphasis on the development of the missile defense system than in the Euro-Atlantic area. 90% of American defense information and strike systems are deployed in the APR. In addition, radar stations and ballistic missile interceptors are deployed in the territories and fleets of the US allies and partners and joint engineering development work is conducted with them - it's Japan, South Korea, Taiwan," the expert stressed.

"Officially, this system is targeted against North Korea that in 2012 carried out a ballistic missile test over Japan, in 2013 carried out a third nuclear weapons test, provoking another sharp crisis, and now, to all appearances, is preparing a fourth test," Arbatov says.

"However, the further build-up of the American missile defense will be excessive for countering North Korea's missile attack and cannot have any other goal than hampering the growth of China's nuclear deterrence potential," the international security expert believes.

"Another scenario that is seriously considered is an armed clash, triggered by Beijing's possible attempt to settle the Taiwan problem by force. Much less secure feel the neutral countries: Vietnam, Malaysia and other states of Southeast Asia towards which China has already demonstrated naval force, factually occupying many islands of the South China Sea and announcing its exclusive air defense zone over them (the right to permit or ground the flights)," the expert said.

According to him, in response to the changing situation, Japan is taking measures and Taiwan is trying to bolster defense by purchasing armaments from the United States. And Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia make large-scale military purchases from Russia, including advanced fighters, helicopters, missile boats, anti-ship missiles, frigates, submarines, air defence systems, armour equipment (the total volume of purchase in recent years has exceeded $6 billion).

"Russia should not yield to alarmism, but build up its presence in the APR. To mend the unfavourable situation it is necessary, first, to take decisive steps for the economic and demographic boost of Siberia and the Far East. Second, it is necessary to considerably strengthen the Russian Air Force, Aerospace Defenae Forces and Ground Troops in this region," Arbatov concluded.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 11Apr14]

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East China Sea Conflict
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