US plans to counter China ‘at risk because of allies’ reluctance to host missile systems’
- A report says Washington’s treaty allies in the Indo-Pacific would be reluctant to provoke China by offering permanent bases for intermediate missiles
- The best option may be to help Japan develop its own anti-ship missiles, the analysis concludes
Washington’s strategy to counter China is at serious risk of failure because of the reluctance of its allies in the Indo-Pacific to permanently host missile systems, an analysis by a US think tank has concluded.
The report by the Rand Corporation said that domestic political considerations and their economic ties to China meant it was unlikely that any of the five US allies in the region – Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand – would be willing to host ground-based intermediate-range missiles.
The missiles have a range of up to 5,000km (3,5oo miles) and – following the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 – could develop more of the missiles and deploy them in the region to counter China.
China never signed the treaty, which was agreed by the US and Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, and has been developing its own intermediate-range missiles, including the DF-21 – dubbed the “carrier killer” – and the nuclear capable DF-26.
Jeffrey W Hornung, who wrote the report, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also heightened concerns about an attack on Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of its territory to be reunited by force if necessary.
The report suggested that alternative options for the US included jointly developing or selling the missiles to an ally, which would control its own system; deploying them to the region in times of crisis; or a peacetime rotational deployments.
Another option would be basing them on Guam – a US overseas territory – or one of the small Pacific island nations that has signed the Compact of Association with Washington.
“The option most likely to succeed would be to help Japan in its efforts to develop and deploy an arsenal of ground-based, anti-ship stand-off missile capabilities,” he said, adding these missiles could be deployed on Japan’s southwestern islands, or even Kyushu, the southernmost of its four main islands.
“Although these missiles still would not be capable of deep strikes into China … they would be able to cover ship movements in the Taiwan Strait … which Chinese assets could be held at war-planning risk and potentially contributing to a maritime interdiction mission in the Taiwan Strait.”
Cheung Mong, an associate professor at Waseda University in Japan, said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida might welcome the other alternatives because the new government does not want to provoke Beijing, despite the importance of the US alliance.
“The current reality of Tokyo’s defence plan is: it attempts to use US military power to defend the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands,” he said referring to the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea which both China and Japan claim.
“But it doesn’t want to be dragged into the Taiwan issue too deeply, which is the opposite of what the US wants to do.”
Author: Minnie Chan, SCMP