Washington: The United States Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, said today that he is in favour of deploying intermediate range missiles in Asia soon. The move comes after the US left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed with Russia in 1987 which banned land based ballistic and cruise missiles with range of 500 km to 5,500 km.
US withdrew from the INF treaty citing Russia’s violation of the treaty. US military sources say that they are expecting to test a ground based cruise missile in a few weeks. In addition, a ballistic missile with intermediate range will be tested in November.
The US administration’s decision to put missiles on the ground in Asia is to counter the growing threat of military power of China. The US was, till date, handicapped against the Chinese development of increasingly sophisticated land based missile force.
United States had only missiles fired from ships and aircrafts to counter balance the Chinese threat. With US deploying ground launched missiles in Asia the power balance could get tilted in its favour.
Though, military experts fear a nuclear arms race in the region, the senior US official denied such claims.
While speaking about a potential arms race in the Asia Pacific region, Mark Esper said,” “I don’t see an arms race happening, I do see us taking proactive measures to develop a capability that we need for both the European theater and certainly this theater.”
However, the Secretary of Defence did not clarify when or where the missiles will be deployed. He said, “I would prefer months … but these things tend to take longer than you expect.”