The US seeks to deploy an intermediate range conventional missile in the Pacific region within months, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. However, the top official noted that it will likely take some time to develop the more advanced land-based missile capabilities.
“It’s fair to say, though, that we would like to deploy a capability sooner rather than later,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Australia on August 2. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”
The move is likely to anger China, but the US Defense Secretary said Beijing shouldn’t be surprised by it.
Mark Esper added that the US will now “fully pursue” the development of new types of ground-based missiles. Earlier, he said that the US needs to build new military bases and boost “resilient force posture” in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China.
The annoucnement came on the day of the final US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia. Signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the agreement banned all land-based missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km and their launchers.
Over the past years, the US and Rusia have repeatedly accused each other of secretly violating the INF. The US initially suspended its obligations to the agreement in February 2019. Russia responded by a similar step.
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