Asia is on the verge of a new nuclear arms race and could be pushed over the edge if the United States goes forward with its missile shield program, a French politician said Friday at the end of a tour of China, India and Pakistan.
Pierre Lellouche, a member of the defense commission of the French National Assembly, said the US national missile defense (NMD) would have serious consequences for China and South Asia where India and Pakistan are already primed for conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
"My plea to the Americans is that any reintroduction of defense into the equation of deterrence has to be done as part of a multilateral contract or negotiation," he told AFP.
"Any unilateral decision to introduce such weapons even if they do not work will send shockwaves throughout the world and especially where you are seeing the emergence of new nuclear powers."
Lellouche was speaking at the end of a round of talks with Pakistan's nuclear scientists and defense officials, which wraps up a tour of South Asia and China to examine nuclear proliferation for the French parliament.
The Pentagon is poised Friday for the last planned test of an attempted missile intercept over the Pacific before US Defense Secretary William Cohen makes a formal recommendation to the president on NMD's feasibility.
It will determine whether the Pentagon certifies NMD as ready for deployment by 2005, a key factor in President Bill Clinton's decision on whether to start construction of the first phase of the system.
The system, designed to shoot down incoming nuclear warheads targeting the United States, has provoked a raging debate over its likely impact on the nuclear balance of power.
Russia, China and others have warned that deployment, which would mean US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, would trigger an arms race.
"There is clearly a chain reaction between China, India and Pakistan. China has its own reasons to ... increase its nuclear forces," Lellouche said, adding Beijing would take NMD as a "pretext" for boosting its nuclear arsenal.
"The Indians are being driven by the bad-boy syndrome ... and even though they say they do not want an arms race with China, if China accelerates they will have to follow.
"We have here an arms race in the beginning for a variety of different reasons." - ISLAMABAD (AFP)
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