Pentagon Chief Wants More Missiles in Asia

Dismisses probable Chinese objection to more nukes in Asia

Interested in taking advantage of the US withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty last week,Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters he is very interested in putting some intermediate-range nuclear weapons into Asia in the months ahead.

Esper conceded that there was no specific timetable for such deployments, and that they “tend to take longer than you expect.” The Pentagon is moving to develop new post-INF missiles, but may choose to go with designs from before the 1987 treaty went into effect, just to get more nukes into Asia.

Reporters were quick to point out that China would object to this, but Esper said he didn’t see it likely to lead to an arms race, and that he believed adding a bunch of additional land-based missiles would “deter China.”

The US and Russia were the signatories to INF, and the US withdrew nominally because they thought Russia violated it. The early suggestions, however, are that the US is eager to start developing weapons that would’ve been banned by INF, and in particular is keen to target China with them, who was never a party to the deal in the first place, and subsequently has a substantial intermediate-range arsenal.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.