Pentagon Plans New Missile Defence in Asia

As tensions loom in the South China Sea and disputes over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Island continue, Voice of America reports American plans to expand missile defense in Asia. The news follows China and North Korea’s vow to develop economic ties:

U.S. defense officials say the United States is planning to expand its missile defenses in Asia, in response to threats from North Korea and aggressive moves by China.A spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, said Thursday that the United States is taking a phased approach to missile defense in Asia, as it is in Europe and in the Middle East. She emphasized that those are defense systems and will not be used unless “missiles have been fired.” But she did not comment on any specific plans.

China did not comment on the reports directly, but its defense ministry issued a statement Thursday saying that “China has always believed that anti-missile issues should be handled with great discretion, from the perspective of protecting global strategic stability and promoting strategic mutual trust among all countries.”

China has angered its neighbors with aggressive moves in a maritime area claimed by several governments, including Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and others. China also has been boosting its military strength in recent years.

Want China Times, meanwhile, reports that the People’s Liberation Army has tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile:

An anonymous US official says a Chinese DF-41 ICBM with the range to strike any city in the United States was test-fired by the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps for the first time on Jul. 24, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.

With many American observers believing the missile can carry multiple independently targetable warheads, the DF-41 is considered a serious threat to US national security. An analyst told Jane’s Defence Weekly that the ICBM can carry around 10 nuclear warheads to strike at multiple targets in the continental United States.

The United States is currently unable to intercept missiles which employ a MIRV system. “The DF-41’s multiple warheads are expected to include special simulated warheads called ‘penetration aids’ that are designed to counter US missile defense sensors,” said Larry Wortzel, a member of the congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“The Chinese military’s Second Artillery Corps, which is in charge of both strategic and non-nuclear missiles, is working to integrate the DF-41 into its operational inventory,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute. “The system appears to incorporate a new, larger solid rocket motor than that used on the DF-31 series of delivery vehicles. Ground tests on the motor have been underway for a couple of years.”

Aside from the ICBM, the Pentagon is worried about the development of an anti-carrier ship missile, The Telegraph adds:

The Pentagon is also concerned about China’s development of a new “carrier-killer” anti-ship missile that can strike at the US Pacific fleet.

These missiles, which have a range of 930 miles, are designed to prevent US ships from approaching the South China Sea, a key sphere of Chinese influence.

Amid tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, CRIENGLISH reports the US is in discussions with Japan about expanding the missile shield in the region:

The United States is in discussion with Japan about expanding its missile shield in the Asia-Pacific region, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Thursday.

In a Pentagon press briefing with visiting Japanese Self Defense Forces Chief of the Joint Staff Shigeru Iwasaki, Dempsey said he discussed with Iwasaki about deploying another early-warning radar to Japan to bolster missile shield in Asia.

“On the issue of Missile Defense in general, we are very closely partnered with the Japanese partners,” said Dempsey, noting the U.S. side already has one X-band radar in northern Japan

According to the Wall Street Journal, this move is not only to contain North Korea, but also to counter the Chinese military:

It is part of the Obama administration’s new defense strategy to shift resources to an Asian-Pacific region critical to the U.S. economy after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The focus of our rhetoric is North Korea,” said Steven Hildreth, a missile-defense expert with the Congressional Research Service, an advisory arm of Congress. “The reality is that we’re also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China.”

In a separate statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it hopes the U.S. “will carefully handle this problem out of concern for maintaining the global and regional strategic balance and stability, and promoting the strategic mutual trust among all countries.”

The beefed-up U.S. presence will likely raise tensions with the Chinese, who have been sharp critics of U.S. ballistic missile defenses in the past. Beijing fears such a system, similar to one the U.S. is deploying in the Middle East and Europe to counter Iran, could diminish China’s strategic deterrent. Beijing objected to the U.S.’s first X-Band deployment in Japan in 2006. Moscow has voiced similar concerns about the system in Europe and the Middle East.

Despite reports that the expansion is to counter China’s military, the US State Department claimed the prospective plan is not directed towards China, from NPR:

The State Department, however, said the missile defense system is not directed against China.

Dempsey said no decisions have been reached on expanding the radar.”But it’s certainly a topic of conversation because missile defense is important to both of our nations,” Dempsey told reporters at the start of a meeting with his visiting Japanese counterpart, Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, at the Pentagon.

“These are defensive systems. They don’t engage unless missiles have been fired,” department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference. “In the case of Asian systems, they are designed against a missile threat from North Korea. They are not directed at China.”