Full-blown Asian arms race now in the making

-- Financial Times, London - March 7

Posted: Thursday, March 08, 2001

The mood is growing chillier while the rhetoric is blowing hotter. On Monday, Beijing formally announced an 18 percent increase in defense spending in response to ''drastic'' changes in the world military situation. China's foreign minister also urged Washington to ''rein in its wild horses'' over supplying anti-missile defenses to Taiwan. Chinese defense planners have argued that NATO's intervention in Kosovo highlighted the west's meddlesome intent, and thus justifies a stronger army.

It is not only Beijing that is beefing up its military spending. Last week, India announced a substantial increase in its defense budget -- chiefly in response to the threat from a nuclear-armed Pakistan, but with a wary eye on China too. Russia has also hinted it may have to rebuild its nuclear arsenal if China develops its long-range missile technology in response to U.S. plans to deploy a national missile defense system. A worrying spiral of suspicion is beginning to build in the region, which could yet develop into a full-blown Asian arms race.

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