On August 2, U.S. President Trump notified Russia that it would withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) -- initially signed between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, which had expired earlier this year. This set the stage for development of new intermediate range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles by both countries.
But while the Americans square off against the Russians, how did East Asia become such a dangerous place -- or as Weekly Playboy (Oct 14) puts it, a "nuclear missile Ginza" -- so suddenly?
Journalist Ryuichi Tejima tells Weekly Playboy believes one of the factors that moved the U.S. to withdraw from the INF was China's development of intermediate range missiles -- which China insists are entirely defensive in nature. Ending the treaty may be a gambit to get the Chinese to negotiate on controls, but there's nothing in it for them.
"The U.S. at present has no missiles to counter them," says China affairs specialist Atsumori Ueda. "Which means right now, the U.S. military bases in South Korea and Japan, as well as in Guam, are unable to defend themselves from Chinese missiles."
"While their overall volume is less than that stocks held by the U.S. or Russia, China's missile force boasts enormous destructive capability, Ueda points out.
"A single nuclear warhead has over tenfold the power of the Hiroshima bomb, capable of destroying an area with three times the radius," he pointed out. "In the case of a concentrated attack, defensive measures would be difficult," he said, adding "Simulations conducted by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and various think tanks indicate that in a clash between the U.S. and China, all U.S. Air Force, Naval and Marine Air facilities in Japan would be flattened within 30 minutes; and naval vessels would be sunk before they could leave port."
After U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper remarked that the U.S. was "considering deploying missiles in East Asia," China's belligerent newspaper Global Times stated, "Should Japan or South Korea agree to station these on their soil, these would only serve as America's bulletproof shields."
For the missile batteries to survive an attack, Ueda explains, they would, in principle, need to be widely dispersed.
"So I think they would be situated on the U.S. bases and U.S. naval ships around Japan."
But Jun Kitamura, a Seattle-based defense policy adviser, warns that Japan's ability to defend against incoming missiles is likely to be insufficient.
"In addition to as many as 4,000 missiles launched from China, North Korea possesses some 300 missiles capable of use against Japan, and it's possible a portion of them will be nuclear armed," Kitamura says. "To defend against these, Japan has ships armed with Aegis missiles and the land-based Aegis Ashore system. But if the number of incoming missiles exceed the number that Japan can fire to intercept them, then detection alone won't do any good. And we can't rule out that China would launch a preemptive strike against the Aegis ships and land batteries."
"The Japanese media has not been thoroughly considering what the withdrawal of the INF treaty means for Japan's security," says the aforementioned Tejima. "Some of the missiles tested by North Korea appear to be new types capable of evading U.S. detection technology. So the efforts by America's rivals at 'decoupling' the U.S. from its alliances, the process of which has been continuing in Southeast Asia lately, has me very concerned."
Whatever Japan hopes for, or doesn't hope for, the rules of the game have changed. And it looks like the players have started making their moves.© Japan Today