UPDATED: July 20, 2021,04:24 PM IST
Asia is sliding into a dangerous arms race as smaller nations that once stayed on the sidelines build arsenals of advanced long-range missiles, following in the footsteps of powerhouses China and the United States, analysts say.
China is mass producing its DF-26, a multipurpose weapon with a range of up to 4,000 kilometres, while the United States is developing new weapons to counter Beijing in the Pacific.
Other countries in the region are buying or developing their own new missiles, driven by security concerns over China and a desire to reduce their reliance on the United States.
Before the decade is out, Asia will be bristling with conventional missiles that fly farther and faster, hit harder, and are more sophisticated than ever before – a stark and dangerous change from recent years, analysts, diplomats, and military officials say.
“The missile landscape is changing in Asia, and it’s changing fast,” said David Santoro, president of the Pacific Forum.
Such weapons are increasingly affordable and accurate, and as some countries acquire them, their neighbours don’t want to be left behind, analysts said. In addition, missiles provide strategic benefits such as deterring enemies, boosting leverage with allies, and being a lucrative export.
The long-term implications are uncertain, and there is a slim chance that the new weapons could balance tensions and help maintain peace, Santoro said.
“More likely is that missile proliferation will fuel suspicions, trigger arms races, increase tensions, and ultimately cause crises and even wars,” he said.