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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, China Consider Joint Missile Defense

Russia and China may develop a joint missile defense system if the United States ignores their objections and goes ahead with a national anti-missile shield, a senior Russian official has said.

Russia and China have both criticized U.S. proposals to modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) between the United States and the Soviet Union, which sharply limits missile defenses.

The United States has been testing interceptor missiles that could shoot down incoming missiles, but has not deployed the system yet.

The possibility of developing a joint regional missile shield was discussed during the Jan. 16-18 visit to Moscow of Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian, according to a senior officer at Russia's Defense Ministry who declined to be identified.

The officer said Chi and his Russian counterpart, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, met Monday to consider whether to jointly develop a regional shield in the Far East, among other issues.

"Such a development is one of several possible counter-measures we can take in case the United States violates the ABM treaty," the officer said in a phone interview Wednesday.

This U.S.-Soviet treaty bans deployment of a national missile defense by either of the two nuclear powers, allowing each side one limited system protecting one site.

Washington has been pressing Moscow to have the treaty amended to allow the U.S. military to expand its anti-ballistic missile system so it could shoot down lone missiles fired by so-called rogue states such as North Korea.

Russia and China fear that a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system will make it impossible for Russia's nuclear forces to deliver massive retaliation against the United States. The threat of such retaliation was one of the foundations of Cold War deterrence.

Russia says it will abandon both START I and START II treaties if the United States violates the ABM accord. START II has not been ratified yet.

The Defense Ministry officer stressed that no formal agreement has been reached with the Chinese, but said the issue will be discussed more extensively later this year.

The officer would not say whether Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov will discuss the missile defense project during his scheduled visit to Beijing in February.

President Bill Clinton is to decide this summer whether to deploy a national missile defense, and the U.S. military is already busy testing a prototype kill vehicle.

Their efforts suffered a serious setback Tuesday when the kill vehicle prototype failed to intercept a Minuteman ICBM above the Pacific Ocean. Russians strongly criticized the test.

Konstantin Makienko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said Russia doesn't have the money to fund further development of its ABM technologies by itself - but could in conjunction with the Chinese, who have the money but not the technology.

Both Makienko and Ivan Safranchuk of the Center of Policy Studies warned, however, that Russia should not transfer vital ABM technologies to China, but should export already assembled components.

Otherwise, Beijing will develop its own national ABM system that could undermine Russia's ability to hit China. And Russia can deter Chinese attack only with nuclear forces, since its conventional forces are too weak, they said.

The experts also noted that Russia doesn't really need an ABM shield in the Far East as most of its nuclear forces, including sea-launched ballistic missiles, are deployed elsewhere.