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U.S. Air-Sea Battle Strategy May Boost Prospects of Opponents Using Nukes

A Chinese Dongfeng 21 ballistic missile, shown being carried to a military parade rehearsal in 2009. An emerging U.S. military strategy for the Asia-Pacific region could unintentionally encourage adversaries to retaliate with nuclear force, according to a Tuesday news report (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). A Chinese Dongfeng 21 ballistic missile, shown being carried to a military parade rehearsal in 2009. An emerging U.S. military strategy for the Asia-Pacific region could unintentionally encourage adversaries to retaliate with nuclear force, according to a Tuesday news report (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan).

The U.S. military's evolving strategy for using its multifaceted air and naval capabilities to carry out targeted conventional strikes on potential opponents in the Asia-Pacific region could have the unintended consequence of encouraging those adversaries to retaliate by using their nuclear weapons, according to a Tuesday article in Breaking Defense.

The Air-Sea Battle strategy is a developing range of options for how the U.S. Air Force and Navy can use state-of-the-art technologies to neutralize the "anti-access/area-denial" weapons currently being developed by foreign nations, such as the antiship ballistic missiles being fielded by China.

In its initial planning stages, the strategy did not focus on nuclear warfare, according to an unidentified Air-Sea Battle Office staffer.

"When the concept was written, we put a boundary on it and said, 'Hey, we're not going to address nuclear weapons,'" the official said. "Since then we've realized, 'Hey, we do need to deal with nuclear operations.'"

The increasingly accurate weapons possessed by Beijing have reportedly caused some U.S. allies to worry the United States could decide to withdraw its military forces from parts of the Asian-Pacific to keep them out of range of Chinese missiles. "One of the questions you commonly get from the Japanese (about Air-Sea Battle is) they wonder if it's about moving back to a defensible perimeter, withdrawing from the Japanese islands, withdrawing from forward positions," one officer said in an interview. "We've told them actually it's quite the opposite, it's about being able to maintain forces forward-deployed under a threat."

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday castigated Tokyo for its yearly defense white paper, which highlighted a perceived growing threat from China's armed forces, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

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