According to reports, Japan’s defense ministry is planning to set up a team headed by Deputy Defense Minister Kenji Wakamiya to discuss adopting the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. Given North Korea’s frequent ballistic missile tests this year, Japan plans to hammer out a blueprint for the deployment before summer next year, writes an editorial piece of Global Times.
Deploying THAAD will enable Japan to not only guard against missiles from North Korea, but enhance its strategic deterrence against China. South Korea and Japan, both set to deploy the THAAD system, can spy on the northeastern and southeastern regions of China respectively. After they just inked an intelligence-sharing agreement last week, they can form a fully-fledged missile defense system in Northeast Asia with the THAAD adoption, which will weaken China’s missile deterrence and add to the US’ leverage against China.
China has failed to stop South Korea from adopting the THAAD system, and is no more likely to force Japan out of it. With a closer alliance with the US than South Korea and a tougher stance over China, Tokyo brings up the deployment at this moment in an attempt to affect US President-elect Donald Trump‘s policy on the Asia-Pacific. This leaves little for China to do to turn it around.
The US is intensifying its missile defense system in the West Pacific. China cannot expect Trump to retreat from it. Instead China should focus more on what it can do, not what it can talk the US out of doing.
In the current circumstances, China needs to improve its missile defense system and to significantly enhance the penetration capability of its missiles to an extent that outpaces THAAD deployment. The latter is crucial. Seoul and Tokyo’s THAAD deployment plans have given China a chance to upgrade the penetration capability of its missiles and expand its nuclear arsenal to approximately the size of that of the US and Russia.
As the second-largest economy, China has been deemed by the US as its top strategic rival and been dragged into a major power competition. China remaining a second-rate nuclear power will prompt US radicals to get tough on it. The US’ overwhelming nuclear margin on China is not conducive to bilateral relations.
China is fully able to develop its missile penetration capability with a smaller investment so as to render the THAAD system obsolete before its deployment is finished. With mature technology in ballistic missile nuclear submarines, it should launch more submarines to circumvent the THAAD system.
China cherishes peace, but the US, Japan and South Korea are keen to take actions that threaten China’s strategic security. In response, China needs to be flexible diplomatically and meanwhile build reliable military might. Since we can hardly stop the THAAD deployment, we can render the deployment void so that next time these countries will understand that they need to consider before taking any action.