‘Sooner rather than later’: US seeks to deploy mid-range missiles to Asia as it ditches INF Treaty
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US Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed the idea of deploying medium-range missiles to the Indo-Pacific region, just as Washington formally left the landmark INF Treaty with Moscow.
“Yeah, I would like to,” Esper told reporters during his trip to Australia, when asked whether he was considering deploying conventional mid-range missiles to Asia-Pacific.
The Pentagon chief said the US would like to deploy “a capability sooner rather than later,” but declined to provide a detailed timeline.
I would prefer months … but these things tend to take longer than you expect.
Esper made his comments after the US formally withdrew from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) with Russia on Friday. Signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the agreement banned all land-based missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km and their launchers.
In recent years, Washington and Moscow have been accusing each other of secretly violating the treaty. The US initially suspended its obligations to the agreement in February. Russia responded by doing the same several months later.
Mark Esper, who was confirmed by President Donald Trump as defense secretary last week, said that Washington will now “fully pursue” the development of new types of ground-based missiles, now that the country has left the INF Treaty. He stressed earlier that the US needs to build new military bases and boost “resilient force posture” in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China.
Beijing, which has repeatedly condemned Washington’s military posturing in the region, blasted the US for withdrawing from the INF Treaty. American plans to resume development and deployment of mid-range missiles “will severely undermine global strategic balance and stability … and threaten peace and security” in Asia-Pacific, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
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