China warns against any US deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Asia
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Pentagon chief Mark Esper wasted no time. While the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty had officially come to an end on 2 August, he announced the next day that he would like to deploy new conventional weapons of intermediate scope in Asia.
“Yes, I would like to do it,” said Esper, answering a question on this subject, before landing in Sydney [Australia]. “We would like to do it as soon as possible. […] would prefer to count in months,” he added. “But these things tend to take longer than expected,” he admitted.
But we still have to find the places where these new missiles could be deployed. “I would not want to speculate, because […] these are the kinds of things we always discuss with the allies,” said the US Secretary of Defense.
As one of the potential countries to host such American weapons, Australia reported on August 5 that this prospect was “no longer on the agenda.”
The deal seems delicate with South Korea, given the diplomatic initiatives taken against Pyongyang in recent months. “Our government has had no official discussion with the United States on the possible introduction of intermediate-range missiles [on South Korean soil]. We have not examined this issue internally and do not plan to do so,” the South Korean Ministry of Defense said on August 5.
Japan might agree, especially since it has already signaled its intention to have a strike capability to deter North Korea and that, because of its geographical position, it is as close to China and Russia. But, at the same time, the deployment of US missiles on Japanese territory could put the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in a delicate position to the extent that it would ruin his efforts to improve relations with Beijing and Moscow.
In any case, for Mark Esper, China should not be surprised by US plans. This “should not be a surprise, because we’ve been talking about it for a while,” he said, before pointing out that 80% of the Chinese arsenal is made up of intermediate-range missiles. “So it should not be surprising that we wanted similar capabilities,” he insisted.
The Chinese authorities are in no way surprised by the American plans. However, and it was expected, they are very reassembled.
“China will not stand idly by and will be forced to retaliate if the United States is to deploy medium-range land-based missiles in this part of the world,” warned Fu Cong, the executive director. from the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on 6 August.
However, the Chinese official did not specify the options considered by Beijing, except that “everything is on the table.” In addition, he called on countries likely to host US missiles “to exercise caution” because “this would not be in the interest of their national security.”
However, such missiles could be deployed on the island of Guam, where the United States has a base, about 3,000 km from the Chinese territory. But again, Fu said it would be like setting them up “on the doorstep of China.”
“If you install missiles on a piece of land like Guam, it will be perceived as a highly provocative gesture by the United States. It would be very dangerous,” said the head of Chinese diplomacy.
That being the case, on August 6, the Pentagon chief moderated what he had said three days earlier, saying the time has not yet come to send new missiles into the Indo-Pacific region. “We are still far enough away. It will take a few years before we are able to deploy operational missiles,” he said.