China dismissed on Saturday Germany’s request to accede to the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Chinese officials argued that their army’s defensive capabilities would be severely strained from possible membership to the current mandate of the INF Treaty.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel underscored last week that the progressive suspension of the INF Treaty provisions by Moscow and Washington, might possibly lead to another Cold-War era nuclear arms race. This time nonetheless, the rivalry would embody a more multidimensional character, as there are several states with proven nuclear capabilities, including China, which would compete against Moscow and Washington. To this end, the German Chancellor made a plea for upgrading the INF Treaty into a globally-binding agreement.
Russia and the U.S. have progressively suspended parts of the INF Treaty since the first days of February, when both counterparts announced the almost simultaneous freezing of the agreement. The INF Treaty effectively banished the development of ballistic missiles with a shooting range of over 500 kilometres, extending up to 5.500 kilometres. Both parties to the treaty, which was concluded near the end of the Cold War era, blamed each other over a series of alleged violations to the agreement’s provisions.
Meanwhile, the German Chancellor’s proposal to internationalise the treaty’s mandate was seen by European officials as an interim solution, a sign of good gesture, forcing both Moscow and Washington to put an end in the current diplomatic impasse. Still, China also objects to the INF Treaty’s provisions on the basis that most of its ballistic missile capabilities are ground-based as opposed to the Russian and U.S. arsenals. Contrary to Beijing, the two Cold War counterparts possess the flexibility to put ballistic missiles on air, land and sea-based units. The Chinese government claims that the prospect of revisiting the mandate of the INF Treaty to incorporate all these dimensions would be a beneficial development, but until the realisation of this prospect, the current treaty is clearly not effective.