US Asia missile plan ill-conceived

By Sun Chenghao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/8 19:27:19 Last Updated: 2019/8/12 14:56:15

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper Photo: IC

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on Saturday that he was in favor of placing ground-based intermediate-range missiles in Asia within months, just one day after the US formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. 

The move revealed that the US is trying to reach two goals by quitting the deal - aiming at Russia, since the country failed to comply with the INF treaty in the eyes of the US, and boosting its Indo-Pacific Strategy via placing missiles in the region. 

Given US defense power, deploying missiles in Asia is technically achievable. But the plan would require cooperation with its allies in the region.

Japan, South Korea and Australia will undoubtedly be the first choices. It is possible that they will assess the risk of placing such missiles on their own soils, but as loyal allies of the US, they are likely to play supporting roles.

Other regional members, however, are neutral and reluctant to take sides because making such a choice would not be in their best interests. In particular, countries that have maintained stable economic and trade relations with China will be more unlikely to accept a US plan on such a sensitive issue.

The US missile plan would have a damaging influence. Before quitting the INF treaty, US behavior was at least in line with the relevant rules, but without the constraints of the treaty, an arms race is likely to be triggered very soon. Washington's plan would certainly lead to fierce reaction from relevant countries including China and Russia.

The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in South Korea in 2017 inflamed regional tensions. The US deploying intermediate-range missiles in Asia this time will have the same result. A few hot-button issues in Asia have not yet been resolved and the US sudden statement will only stir up more troubles in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the economic and trade domain, there may be room for negotiations and concessions among different powers. But when it comes to military security, any conflict might lead to an arms race and cause way more losses.

China should take a tough stance and make it clear to the US that such a move is very unfavorable to regional stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The US should think twice before carrying out such an ill-conceived plan.

In addition, China should advise US allies in the region that they should not coordinate with the US with the latter's unilateral and wanton policies. US Asian allies have close interactions with China and other countries in the region, especially in trade and economics. If they indiscreetly follow the US lead and help deploy the missiles, their ties with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region will suffer.

Washington's allies should have independence and autonomy in their diplomacy and national defense. They have the right to refuse the US missile plan which would bring disorder to the region.

The author is an assistant research fellow with the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Newspaper headline: Ill-conceived US Asia missile plan to destabilize Asia-Pacific region

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