Sandwiched between China and the United States, Asian countries have strong reserves of new missiles Reuters


© Reuters. File photo: On September 22, 2020, an Indigenous Defensive Fighter (IDF) fighter jet and missile were seen at Magong Air Force Base on Penghu Island off Taiwan’s coast. REUTERS/Yimou Lee


Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters)-Analysts say that Asia is sliding into a dangerous arms race because small countries that once stood idly by are following in the footsteps of China and the United States to build advanced long-range missile arsenals.

China is mass-producing its DF-26 multi-purpose weapon with a range of up to 4,000 kilometers-and the United States is developing new weapons Against Beijing in the Pacific.

Due to security concerns about China and the desire to reduce dependence on the United States, other countries in the region are buying or developing their own new missiles.

Analysts, diplomats, and military officials say that before the end of this decade, Asia will be flooded with conventional missiles that fly farther, faster, more powerfully, and more advanced than ever before—this is the past few years. An obvious and dangerous change has come.

“The missile landscape in Asia is changing, and it is changing rapidly,” said David Santoro, chairman of the Pacific Forum.

Analysts say such weapons are getting cheaper and more accurate, and as some countries acquire them, their neighbors do not want to be left behind. Missiles provide strategic benefits, such as deterring the enemy and increasing influence with allies, and can be a profitable export.

Santoro said that the long-term impact is uncertain, and the new weapons have little chance of balancing tensions and helping to maintain peace.

“It is more likely that the proliferation of missiles will fuel suspicion, trigger an arms race, increase tensions, and ultimately trigger crises and even wars,” he said.

(Picture of the Asia-Pacific Missile Competition-

Domestic missile

According to the unreleased 2021 military briefing document reviewed by Reuters, the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) plans to deploy its new long-range weapons in the “highly survivable precision strike network on the first island chain”, including Japan , Taiwan, and other Pacific islands surrounding the east coast of China and Russia.

New weapons include the long-range hypersonic weapon (LRHW), which can launch highly maneuverable warheads at targets over 2,775 kilometers (1,724 miles) away at speeds exceeding five times the speed of sound.

An INDOPACOM spokesperson told Reuters that no decision has been made on where to deploy these weapons. So far, most American allies in the region have been reluctant to commit to hosting them. If headquartered in Guam, the US territory, LRHW would not be able to attack mainland China.

A source familiar with the thinking of the Japanese government said anonymously that Japan, with more than 54,000 US troops, can deploy some new missile battery packs on its Okinawa islands, but the US may have to withdraw other troops. The problem.

Analysts say that allowing U.S. missiles-which the U.S. military will control-is also likely to provoke an angry response from China.

Some allies of the United States are developing their own arsenals. Australia recently announced that it will spend $100 billion in the development of advanced missiles within 20 years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and China have shown that it is a mistake to rely on such an extensive global supply chain to supply critical items during a crisis — and during wars, including advanced missiles — it is therefore a wise strategic thinking to have production capacity in Australia. ,” said Michael Shubridge of the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy.

Japan has spent millions of dollars on long-range air-launched weapons and is developing a new type of vehicle-mounted anti-ship missile, the Type 12 -range- anti-ship-missiles-china-pressure-mounts-2020-12-18, with an estimated range of 1,000 kilometers.

Among US allies, South Korea has the most powerful domestic ballistic missile program, thanks to a recent agreement with Washington to lift bilateral restrictions on its capabilities. Its Hyunmoo-4 has a range of 800 kilometers, making it a wide range in China.

Zhao Tong, a strategic security expert in Beijing, wrote in a recent report: “When the conventional long-range strike capabilities of the US allies increase, their chances of being hired during regional conflicts will also increase.”

Despite concerns, Washington “will continue to encourage its allies and partners to invest in defense capabilities compatible with coordinated operations,” US Representative Mike Rogers (NYSE:), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Reuters.

blurred lines

Taiwan has not publicly announced its ballistic missile program, but the US State Department approved its request to purchase dozens of US short-range ballistic missiles in December. Officials said that Taipei is mass-producing weapons, and is developing cruise missiles such as Yunfeng, which can strike as far as Beijing .

All of this is to “make the (Taiwan’s) porcupine stings longer as China’s military capabilities improve,” Wang Tingyu, senior legislator of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (NYSE:) told Reuters, while insisting that the island The missiles on board are not intended to penetrate deep into China.

A diplomatic source in Taipei said that Taiwan’s armed forces, which have traditionally focused on defending islands and resisting Chinese invasion, have begun to appear more aggressive.

The diplomat added: “The line between defensive and offensive weapons is getting narrower.”

South Korea has been engaged in a fierce missile race with North Korea. North Korea recently tested is the longest An improved version of the tried-and-tested KN-23 missile with a 2.5-ton warhead, which analysts say is designed to defeat the 2-ton warhead on the Hyunmoo-4.

Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington, said: “While North Korea still appears to be the main driver of South Korean missile expansion, Seoul is seeking systems with a range beyond what is needed to counter North Korea.”

As proliferation accelerates, analysts say that the most worrying missiles are those that can carry conventional or nuclear warheads. China, North Korea, and the United States have all deployed such weapons.

Davenport said: “Before reaching the target, it is difficult or impossible to determine whether a ballistic missile is equipped with a conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead.” As the number of such weapons increases, “the risk of unintentional upgrades to nuclear strikes also increases. ”

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