The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty between the United State and Russia signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987 formally ended on August 2nd. On Sunday the new US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper dined privately with Winston Peters. Before and during his trip to the Pacific, Mark Esper called for placement of intermediate-range US missiles in Asia.
The United States has been steadily retreating from all the anti-nuclear treaties established in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. Current National Security Adviser John Bolton has been a vocal advocate of withdrawal from these treaties for years.
The INF treaty was a particular target. The US and Russia both argued that the other was in breach of it. Late last year the Russians proposed via the UN that the two parties meet to resolve the dispute. The US argue against any dialogue and inexplicably so did New Zealand, stating that the Russian resolution was a “sidestep.”
The real sidestep would appear to be what is now apparent in Esper’s call for Asia-Pacific countries to deploy US missiles. The real target is China, and the American aim is to surround China with missiles with a short launch to target cycle making defence that much more difficult.
And the Chinese are under no illusions as to what the targets are – their cities. As far back as the 1950’s when the US was planning first-strike nuclear attack on Russia cities, they also included Chinese cities.
Jacinda Ardern famously said in one of her early speeches that climate change was the nuclear-free issue of the 21st century. But the 21st century is not nuclear-free; indeed the US and now Russia are rapidly developing new weapons supposedly to produce a new stalemate.
Intermediate range missiles significantly raise the danger level; and the real danger is not from deliberate destruction but from accidents or mistakes. Esper said the missiles would not have nuclear warheads; if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you. The Australians have stated there will be no missiles on their territory, but they are building a new base with the US in Papua New Guinea. And there is always Nauru.
Winston Peters is also our Minister of Disarmament. New Zealand supports the abolition of nuclear weapons; one hopes that he raised the issue of nuclear disarmament with the US Defense Secretary. He prides himself on his plain speaking.
But Peters has invited the US to take more interest in the Pacific; its no surprise to me that their response has been to offer to provide missiles with which to attack China, rather than a trade deal.
In the 1980s we stopped the US ships from coming our way. Now that missiles are the weapon of choice, we need to stop them too.