US defence chief in Japan for talks amid suggestions of regional missile deployment

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will meet with his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya in Tokyo today, days after suggesting

japan us missiles

Photo: Reuters

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will meet with his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya in Tokyo today, days after suggesting Washington intends on deploying new, ground-based intermediate range missiles to Asia.

After withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on August 2, the Pentagon is now free to deploy missiles that have range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometres.

Such a move will likely continue to raise tensions between Beijing and Washington—already elevated over the on-going trade war and disagreements over China’s military presence in the South China Sea.

As a key US ally in the region with a history of antipathy towards China, Japan is an appealing Asian country to host a new US missile deployment.

For its part, Beijing never signed the INF treaty, leaving it unconstrained to amass an arsenal of close to 300 warheads over the past three decades. Although Tokyo has a pertinent interest in ensuring regional stability by avoiding an arms race, do not discount it flirting with the US proposal. Indeed, Tokyo may see the deterrent effect of US missiles on its territory as outweighing the potential risk of conflagrating a regional arms race.

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