The Pentagon announced plans to position new ground-based missiles in the Indo-Pacific region last year, after the US scrapped the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. However, US allies, including the Philippines, South Korea and Japan, have expressed opposition to the deployment of new strategic weapons on their territory.

The US is developing and preparing to deploy a variety of new missiles, including “long-range precision” hypersonic weapons, in the Indo-Pacific region, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville has confirmed.

“We know we need long-range precision fires. That’s our number one priority and so we’re developing hypersonic capability right now, we’ve been successful in our tests. We’re going to have mid-range missiles that can sink ships. We think that’s very, very important for the anti-access/area denial capabilities that we may face,” the general said, speaking at an event organised by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic & International Studies last week.

Suggesting that it is “still being determined” where new US military capabilities would be deployed, McConville said that the military’s objective was to “overmatch” any prospective adversary in any possible conflict, with this expected to become possible through the comprehensive modernisation of the US military.

Asia Build-Up

US military officials have expressed concerns over the growing size and technological sophistication of China’s naval and air forces in recent years, with Beijing surpassing the total number of US warships last year, and preparing to complement these numbers with added tonnage in the form of two new aircraft carriers and combined amphibious assault/helicopter carrying vessels.

Both countries are also racing toward the production and fielding of new hypersonic weapons. In late June, US President Donald trump formally invoked an executive authority ordinarily reserved for wartime to direct civilian industry toward the production of components for hypersonic weapons. The US is working on as many as nine separate air-, sea- and ground-launched hypersonic missiles, with the first expected to become operational by 2022.

Earlier this year, senior Pentagon officials admitted that the US was working to catch up to both China and Russia in the field of hypersonic weapons, pointing to “huge investments” by Beijing in the field in recent years.

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-17 roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019

Washington withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia in August 2019, and immediately began testing new ground-based medium-range missile systems for possible deployment in Asia. The US has faced issues regarding where to deploy such weapons; however, as major allies including the Philippines, South Korea and the governor of the Japanese region of Okinawa have expressed fierce opposition to the deployment of new US strategic weapons on their territory.