SOUTH CHINA SEA tensions have provoked a chilling arms race between the US and China as President Donald Trump looks to thwart Beijing in the region, but Washington’s move could spark fury from North Korea too as disarmament talks falter.
The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed between Washington and the Soviet Union barred the use of the two nations’ land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers with that could hit targets from intermediate range, classified as between 500km range and 5,500km range depending on the type of system. But the treaty was abandoned officially by the US in August, sparking widespread concern as to how both the President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond.
It seems however, Mr Trump is looking to utilise the new-found military freedom by directing his attention to China rather than Russia, as the two countries continue to battle for influence in the natural resource rich South China Sea.
Ankit Panda highlights in his article for Foreign Policy that the US are making Asia a hotbed for their intermediate range missile systems, a move that will inevitably cause concern in Beijing.
But, Mr Panda also highlights that the move may benefit Mr Trump in his South China Sea objectives, but could derail his already faltering nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.
The White House’s efforts to talk leader in Pyongyang Kim Jong-un into abandoning its nuclear programme have been long and arduous, and appear on the ropes as North Korea fumes at Mr Trump’s agreement with South Korea for joint military exercises.
On Wednesday, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA published a threat from the country’s State Affairs Commission warning the US that unless it pulls back military drills with Seoul and renews negotiations, there will be devastating consequences.
The Statement said: “We explicitly defined the joint military drill being planned by the U.S. and South Korea as a main factor of screwing up tensions of the Korean peninsula and the region out of control.
“Despite our repeated warnings, the US and the South Korean side decided to push ahead with the military drill hostile to the DPRK at the most sensitive time.”
The military exercises have now been postponed, but the move will still sit badly with Kim Jong-un , whose nuclear programme has accelerated dramatically this year.
North Korea has tested 8 missiles since the start of May this year, a major acceleration of their project, leaving neighbors Japan and South Korea furious.
Their latest test was on October 2, and saw their new-type submarine-launched ballistic missile land in the exclusive economic zone of Japan off Shimane Prefecture. North Korea said the launch was successful.
In July, a test was carried out where short range missiles landed in the Sea of Japan.
Following the launch of the short range missiles, North Korea called the tests a “solemn warning” against what it described as “South Korean warmongers”.
Mr Trump and Kim met in Stockholm last month, but the talks in Sweden broke off with the North’s envoy saying the US failed to show flexibility. Any progress has been few and far between since fallout between both countries in Hanoi in February.
The South China Sea region is important to the US, but Mr Trump will need to be careful to balance that with his ongoing North Korea negotiations.’