Australia urged to press China on new missiles, nuclear disarmament

Australia urged to press China on new missiles, nuclear disarmament

Australia urged to press China on new missiles, nuclear disarmament

Updated 6 August 2014, 17:50 AEST

A nuclear weapons expert has urged Australia to "look carefully" at the issue of disarmament and press China on its development of new missiles.

China has confirmed the existence of a new intercontinental ballistic missile said to be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads as far as the United States.

A government environmental monitoring centre said on its website that a military facility in Shannxi province was developing Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) missiles, designed to have a range of 12,000 kilometres, the Global Times reported.

The original government web post appeared to have been deleted, and the article was withdrawn, on Friday.

It is in [Australia's] interest that North-East Asia should not become a nuclear cockpit.

Professor Richard Tanter, from the Nautilus Security Institute

The US Defence Department believes China's military has had the technology for a decade, but it had not previously acknowledged the missiles' existence.

Professor Richard Tanter, security analyst at the Nautilus Security Institute, says Australia should respond to the revelations by supporting nuclear disarmament.

"I think Australia should have a very strong interest in serious disarmament and issues of this area," he told Asia Pacific.

"We have obviously a complicated relationship with China because of our alliance with the United States, but it is in [Australia's] interest that North-East Asia should not become a nuclear cockpit.

"It is in our interest to say to China, 'we don't think that you should develop this into a production line missile system'.

"But equally I think it's important for Australia to pull back from its enthusiasm for the United States' missile defence system in which we participate, for example through the joint defence facility at Pine Gap, and look carefully at what we are doing that maybe inadvertently, perhaps consciously, be accelerating this arms race."

Nuclear arms race

In January China's Defence Ministry responded to reports that it had tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle by saying that any military experiments were "not targeted at any country and at any specific goals".

It made the same response last December when asked about reports that it had tested the DF-41.

Beijing has boosted its military spending by double digit amounts for several years as it seeks to modernise its armed forces, and now has the world's second biggest military outlays after the US.

Professor Tanter says for decades China has had a "remarkably consistent policy" on nuclear weapons and it has been "very restrained in the weapons it's developed".

"The Chinese take the point of view that yes, they support nuclear disarmament and they're probably serious about that, in the sense that they see the destructiveness of it.

"They also make the point that until the United States and Russia - which between them, have something like 19,000 strategic warheads - China's really not in that game.

"On the other hand, the Chinese would quite rightly say that one reason that they have developed this DongFeng-41 is a response to what the United States has been doing for the last 15 years in the Pacific and East Asia, in developing missile defence, particularly with Japan."

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen in recent months over territorial disputes with US allies in the East and South China Seas, and cyberspying.

Last month Chinese President Xi Jinping said that any confrontation between China and the US "will surely spell disaster for both countries and for the world".