Earlier this year, the United States announced its decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. What lies behind the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark 1987 nuclear arms control pact with Russia and how might it affect the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region? To find answers, The Asahi Shimbun consulted defense experts in Japan and the United States.

Below are excerpts of an interview with Dr. Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., who served as president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) from 1995 to 2016:

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Question: What's your take on China's missile capability?

Krepinevich: In terms of the range of its missile system in particular, the Chinese have a clear advantage in part because of the INF Treaty that precludes the United States from developed ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a long range. In U.S. defense circles, this is called “an asymmetric advantage” for the Chinese.

The Chinese have been very good at identifying potential weak points in the American military's capability. Their ballistic missiles can very quickly strike major American bases--like the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture and Andersen Air Base in Guam, in the Western Pacific. Also, with their DF-21 and DF-26 missiles, they are developing the capability to strike mobile targets, not just fixed bases. And, of course, the target here would be American aircraft carriers. The Americans have put many eggs in a few baskets--a few major air bases, a few large carriers--and the Chinese are going after those baskets: the bases and the carriers.

Q: How serious for the United States is the “Range War” being waged in the Western Pacific?

A: It is serious, especially when you look at the history of warfare over the last one hundred years. There have been several major disruptive shifts in warfare. But a key part of that was the emphasis on “speed and range.”

In the early part of the 20th century, the British were the first to build modern battleships, and they were faster and they could fire at a greater distance than their rival, the Germans. In the period between the world wars, the battleships were overtaken by the aircraft carrier, whose aircraft could outrange the guns of the most powerful battleship. Now, we're seeing this competition between the Japan-U.S. alliance and China, where China is looking for the speed that a ballistic missile gives them and the range advantage.

This represents a strategic challenge to not only the United States, but also to the Japan-U.S. alliance.

So the question is how will the Japanese and the Americans respond to this to maintain a stable balance of military power that ensures neither side is encouraged to use military force. Another problem is in terms of Chinese military doctrine, there is a great emphasis on “Surprise.”

Q: Have you seen satellite footage of “ships in the sand” at China’s missile test range?

A: I have seen the pictures of a carrier deck outlined on the ground at a Chinese military range, which appeared to be used for testing their anti-carrier weapons. It called to mind the strike on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor. Given Chinese military doctrine and its emphasis on deception, it suggested they could employ missiles like the DF-21 and DF-26 to execute a surprise attack against U.S. warships in the Pacific.

The Chinese are not trying to hide the fact that they are looking to push the Americans away from their allies in the Western Pacific. I think the purpose is to push the Americans away from the Western Pacific. I have mentioned to some senior Japanese military officers that our alliance should take steps to avoid being the victims of a surprise attack.

Sun Tzu said that the mark of a great general is not to win battles, but to win without fighting. I think the Chinese are pursuing this approach, working to shift the balance gradually to the point where other countries will say, "We cannot oppose China, and we will have to take direction from China." That not only poses a strategic choice for the United States, but also for our allies and partners in the region.

Q: After scrapping the INF Treaty, do you think the United States might try to deploy a new type of missile for the Asia-Pacific region?

A: It was said that the INF Treaty was really a treaty for Europe. However, we now have a different situation. The Chinese are not inclined to join in on any expansion of the INF Treaty. So the question is, does the treaty’s termination provide the Americans with an opportunity to offset an area where the Chinese have had a monopoly on military capability. I think the Americans will consider deploying ground-based cruise missiles and ground-based ballistic missiles, perhaps to Guam and to other places over time. At some point, Japan might consider developing these capabilities as a form of deterrence.

I have proposed “Archipelagic Defense” as a concept for Japan and the United States, along with America’s other allies and security partners in the region, to maintain a stable military balance. The idea would be to convince the Chinese that they cannot achieve the air superiority, naval superiority and information superiority that they feel they need to wage war. I think the Japanese military is already shifting in this direction, building a number of camps along the southwest wall, positioning forces--not for aggressive action, but for air defense, missile defense and coastal defense--the kinds of capabilities that will hopefully deny the Chinese air and maritime superiority.

And the American Army has started to look at these capabilities. One of their top priorities is long-range strike capability. Another is what they call SHORAD, short-range air defense. I think what people need to realize is that establishing a stable military balance will not happen overnight. This is something that will take time and, of course, what you hope is that the Chinese will see this and decide that it's better to look for areas of cooperation as opposed to confrontation.


Krepinevich has also served in the U.S. Army, in the Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment and on the personal staff of three secretaries of defense.

(INTERVIEW/ Franklin Miller: U.S. won't ask Japan to deploy new missiles)

(INTERVIEW/ Hirofumi Tosaki: Japan, U.S., China need to talk about arms control in Asia)