Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
In early March, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, a move in response to the ongoing joint military drills between the US and South Korea. Meanwhile, the first pieces of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system have arrived on South Korean soil. The tension in the Korean Peninsula has once again intensified.
Under these circumstances, China and Russia should enhance strategic coordination and deepen cooperation to add impetus to the current bilateral strategic partnership.
China and Russia are the Korean Peninsula's two most powerful neighbors. Safeguarding national security is the common interest of the two countries in Northeast Asia. Both are stakeholders in the THAAD deployment as the deployment undermines their regional security and breaks the strategic balance in Northeast Asia.
The Joint Statement on Strengthening Global Strategic Stability signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016 serves as the basis for the two to maintain international and regional strategic balance and stability. It expressed concerns over the unilateral deployment of anti-missile systems all over the world, which is non-constructive and has negatively affected global and regional strategic balance, stability and security.
Moreover, the deployment of THAAD in Northeast Asia would not effectively deter North Korean nuclear provocations as the US and South Korea claimed, instead it jeopardizes the strategic interests of regional countries including China and Russia, hence, their opposition.
With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US has viewed North Korea as its foe given the latter's nuclear ambition, but it is eyeing China and Russia. On the one hand, Washington uses this as an excuse to deploy forces in the peninsula; on the other hand, it enhances its alliance with Japan and South Korea to gain an upper hand in Northeast Asia. A tense situation in the peninsula caters to the US interests.
The deployment of THAAD will weaken China and Russia strategic ability. It is a key step of the US military deployment across the world and facilitates its containment of Russia both eastward and westward.
When the US deployed anti-missile systems in Europe, it cited reasons of menace from Iran's nuclear program. But after the Iranian nuclear issue was solved, the US still deployed the systems on European soil. Even if North Korea gives up its nuclear tests, the US will not stop deploying forces to the peninsula.
As the US deployment of THAAD is set to become a reality, China and Russia should use political and diplomatic means to resolve the issue. The two should have the same stance and share military intelligence in the face of the US global deployment of anti-missile systems. A new condition for restarting the Six-Party Talks may be considered. For instance, North Korea should be compelled to abandon nuclear weapons while being ensured of its own security. Or multilateral negotiations among China, the US and South Korea, or among China, Russia, the US and North Korea can be initiated.
When diplomatic means cannot make a breakthrough, China and Russia have to resort to traditional means of upgrading their respective military forces and enhancing defense capabilities as a countermeasure. The computer-enabled missile defense exercise between the two in 2016 showed their opposition to the THAAD deployment.
In the future, China and Russia need to respond to the THAAD issue at the military front. Another computer-enabled missile defense exercise will be held later this year. The possibility of deploying advanced missiles and ground forces will not be ruled out.
If China and Russia can cooperate to counter the US anti-missile systems, it will benefit regional strategic stability and balance and deal a heavy blow to the US intent of holding up to global hegemony.
The author is a research fellow of the Institute of Russia, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion