Military presence in Asia ‘necessary’

RUSSIA yesterday said that it needed to maintain a military presence in Asia, albeit a reduced one, to maintain a balance of power in the region.

“If the US and Russia decrease their presence in the region it will create a vacuum that could be filled by some other countries,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Panov told reporters after giving a talk at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies.

Responding to questions, he said that the Russian military would not maintain a mobile presence in the region but instead keep a “modest military presence” along its 18,000-km-long Pacific coastline.

During his talk, Mr Panov said that Moscow was planning to cut down on the number of its troops in Asia as part of its reforms. Russia had also begun military co-operation with countries like the United States and Japan.

“Russia is no longer regarded as a military threat in the region,” he said.

He also believed that the sale of Russian military equipment to Asian countries would not destabilise the region as the weapons sold were “defensive in nature”.

Among new importers of Russian weapons are Malaysia, which signed a contract for the purchase of MiG-29s, and South Korea. The Philippines, Taiwan and a few other Asian states have also imported Russian combat aircraft, tanks, helicopters, various missile systems and other weaponry.

Russia also plans to expand arms sales to China where it will supply T-72 tanks, C-300 surface-to-air-missile systems and a number of fighter jets.

Mr Panov said Russia would forward a “declaration of principles” at the Asean Regional Forum meeting in Brunei this year which would offer Moscow’s proposals for greater regional stability.

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