Guam may likely be the only one willing to host U.S. missiles as the Trump administration seeks to redeploy its missiles to the Pacific following the U.S. withdrawal from a missile treaty, the latest assessment of the highly respected think tank Stratfor predicted.
According to Stratfor, the U.S. will find few takers in the Western Pacific for Its missiles because China and Russia will explore various avenues to dissuade regional U.S. allies from acceding to Washington’s wishes.
Aside from Guam, the prime candidates to host U.S. missiles are America’s main allies in the Asia-Pacific like South Korea, Japan and, potentially, even the Philippines. But in convincing Seoul, Tokyo and Manila to host such missiles, Stratfor pointed out that Washington will have tough political obstacles that may be impossible to overcome.
“Overall, Washington will have few problems in deploying the missiles in places like Guam, but it will have a hard time convincing foreign allies to host them,” Stratfor said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had said earlier that Washington is now free to deploy its missile weapons after its recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
With the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the United States is seeking to take advantage of its new ability to field previously banned missiles by deploying them in key strategic areas, and the most important geographic area in this regard, Stratfor stressed, is the western Pacific, where Washington is determined to remain a step ahead of the strengthening Chinese military.
Although Defense Secretary Esper did not specify where the United States intended to deploy the weapons, experts say the most likely location is Guam, which already hosts significant U.S. military facilities.
Stratfor agrees with this view, stating that at least initially, the United States will strive to deploy the missiles in areas where it is unlikely to encounter much opposition, such as Guam, which is already a U.S. territory.
The Chinese government has already warned that any missile deployment to Guam would be viewed as a dangerous provocation.
In an article by the Agence France Presse news agency, China’s foreign ministry threatened Guam directly, stating that that any deployment in Guam — around 1,875 miles from Shanghai on China’s east coast — would be viewed as “a very provocative action on the part of the U.S. and it can be very dangerous.”
The statement was attributed to Fu Cong, the director of arms control at the Chinese foreign ministry, who was reacting to speculation that the U.S. would deploy ground-based intermediate-range missiles on Guam.
Fu Cong said China will not stand idly by and will be forced to take countermeasures should the U.S. deploy intermediate-range ground-based missiles in this part of the world.
Fu told AFP that it was important to recognize that the United States is proposing to install the weapons at China’s “doorstep.”
“Especially for a country that has experienced the Cuban missile crisis, I think the American people should understand China’s feelings,” AFP quoted the Chinese official as saying.
Ironically, Stratfor said that China, in the long-term, may prefer to have the U.S. missiles on Guam than elsewhere in the Pacific because Guam has a relatively limited geographic area, making the island easier to target and the U.S. missiles easier to intercept because with the greater distance of Guam to China, Beijing will have a longer time to determine the direction of the U.S. missiles’ flight from Guam.
According to one arms control expert, “every inch” of Guam is most likely already targeted by China whose latest DF-26 ballistic missile — colloquially called the “Guam killer” — was showcased during the Chinese military’s 70th-anniversary parade in Beijing held last Oct. 4, 2019.
“At the same, the great distance ensures that the U.S. missiles must be longer-range, making them more expensive and, accordingly, less numerous. Meanwhile, the United States’ other great power rival in the area, Russia, won’t be in range of any initial intermediate-range missiles stationed in Guam, although subsequent, longer-range missiles will be able to hit the country’s east,” Stratfor stated.
Thus, unless Washington manages to change minds in capitals like Tokyo, Seoul and Manila, Guam might be as close as it gets to its rivals in terms of intermediate-range missiles, Stratfor concluded.