U.S. Missile Defense Push in Asia Seen as Response to North Korea, China

U.S. ambitions to deploy additional antimissile systems on allied territory in the Asia-Pacific is a response to the danger posed by North Korea and worries over China's evolving military capabilities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Under the U.S. military's planned pivot toward the Asia-Pacific, a sophisticated X-band radar unit could be located on an unidentified island in Japan's southern territory that would feed missile threat data to land- and sea-based intercept systems, defense officials told the Journal. With Tokyo's approval the radar could be put in place in a few months' time. The long-range threat detection system would complement a similar U.S. radar deployed six years ago in northern Japan's Aomori Prefecture.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency and Pacific Command are assessing locations in Southeast Asia that could host another X-band radar. Together with the two radar systems in Japan, the unit would supply the United States and friendly nations with a clear picture of the flight path of any high-altitude missiles fired from North Korea or certain areas of China. The Philippines has been considered as a possible host though U.S. defense officials said no site has been decided on and talks on the matter are still in the beginning phase.

The U.S. Navy has developed proposals to increase the number of Aegis antimissile system-equipped ships to 36 no later than 2018. There are presently 26 such vessels. Up to two-thirds of the Aegis fleet would probably be sent to the Asia-Pacific, according to officials.

Beijing opposes U.S. plans to establish a regional missile shield in Asia. The Chinese government is concerned that such an architecture  would undermine its long-range nuclear weapons.

 "China has always believed that antimissile issues should be handled with great discretion, from the perspective of protecting global strategic stability and promoting strategic mutual trust among all countries," the Chinese Defense Ministry said in released remarks on Thursday. "We advocate ... avoiding the situation in which one country tries to let its own state security take priority over other countries' national security."

Between 1,000 and 1,200 Chinese limited-distance high-altitude missiles are estimated to target U.S. ally Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory. There are also concerns about Beijing's advances in farther-flying cruise and ballistic missiles, such as a weapon that could strike an enemy sea vessel at distances greater than 930 miles.

Defense Department spokesman George Little declined to provide details on U.S. antimissile plans for Asia but said that "North Korea is the immediate threat that is driving our missile defense decision-making."

The United States is concerned North Korea is advancing work on a road-mobile ICBM though Pyongyang has yet to demonstrate a successful test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile. Its April firing of a satellite-loaded rocket, widely seen as a cover for a ballistic missile test, ended when the rocket broke apart shortly after leaving the ground.

Congressional Research Service missile defense analyst Steven Hildreth said the Defense Department is "laying the foundations" for a sectoral missile shield that would utilize deployed U.S. assets as well as those of allies including Australia, Japan and South Korea.

August 23, 2012
About

U.S. ambitions to deploy additional antimissile systems on allied territory in the Asia-Pacific is a response to the danger posed by North Korea and worries over China's evolving military capabilities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.