China Issues New White Paper On Arms Control
Claiming that the role of the People's Liberation Army is meant to be for merely defensive purposes, China issued a new White Paper on arms control issues today. While the text seems to support the role or responsibility of nuclear weapons states not to provide nuclear technology to developing or other nations, and other goals that one would expect of a state with responsible rather than reckless military goals, still the Chinese definition of term "defensive" use of military power gives one pause.
In the postWarsaw Pact days of 2001, the Russian Federation sought to forge a new military alliance with other states to counter the military dominance of the U.S. and the growing membership of NATO states. China, along with the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan signed the Shanghai Coooperation Organization. Last week, two member states, China and the Russian Federation held joint naval war games.
The naval war games were interesting in that they appeared to be a dress rehearsal for a Chinese naval assault on Taiwan, in that the only probable navy or air force that could challenge the People's Liberation Army Navy would be the U.S. forces. In the naval exercises, "enemy" submarines were supposedly sunk by use of deck landing anti-submarine helicopters and depth bombs. Air to air missiles were launched to repell "enemy" aircraft. And infrared, photo electric and plantinic devices were used to block "enemy" missiles. While the claim is not to threaten any third party state, but rather military cooperation of the two nations, yet the U.S. is the only likely adversary if a conflict should ever come to pass.
China has long considered Taiwan to be a "breakaway republic". An asault to retake this area by force could unfortunately be considered under this Chinese view of "defense" that the U.S. would consider to be a more of "offensive" effort.
China has recently added six new naval destroyers to the People's Liberation Army Navy, including two Russian purchased ones with Sunburn nuclear tipped antiship missiles. These antiship cruise missiles could kill American aircraft carriers with a 100% crew mortality.
While the People's Liberation Army has been in the process of downsizing manpower since 1987, still the goal of cutting an additional 200,000 in manpower still leaves China with a very formidable force of 2.3 in manpower. But in this age of push button warfare, where less and less manpower is needed on the ground, replaced with weapons launch crews and technicians.
There are many positive values dedicated to the goals of nuclear nonproliferation and other admirable goals in the new Chinese White Paper. But as always the devil is in the details. The Chinese definition of "defense" cannot accept an offensive military role against Taiwan. The entire range of this conflict should be between peaceful negotiations between China and Taiwan to meet a peaceful resolution of this conflict. And the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) which is responsible for both the civilian use if nuclear power as well as military use of nuclear weapons technology cannot use this agency to sell technology to states like Iran in exchange for the huge natural gas deal recently struck, or other fuel source arrangements. The two main world fuel consuming nations are the U.S. and China, and China cannot let the fuel appetite to support their booming economy lead to military transfer technology compromises that allow for more world nuclear arms. The Chinese government CNNC has long been implicated in nuclear weapons related technology trade with Iran, despite the claimed goals of nonproliferation by China in their new White Paper.
All superpowers should commit themselves to sincere nonproliferation of both nuclear as well as conventional weapons curbs and military arms sales sanity. Massive arms sales to Iran, Africa or other states do not support the goals of world peace, and all superpowers including the U.S., Russia and China should support the goals of concern about the spread of weapons throughout the developing world. The new Chinese White Paper is a positive document it the reading of it's text. But actions will speak louder than the printed words. Agencies of the Chinese government such as the CNNC deserve close scrutiny whether they will live up to the claimed nonproliferation goals stated in the White Paper, or whether it will be nuclear related technology transfer to states like Iran business as usual. If so, then this new White Paper was hardly worth the effort.