March 08, 2019

America and Japan in a Post-INF World

By Eric Sayers and Sugio Takahashi

How long do estimates suggest it would take the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force to destroy all major U.S. air, naval, and logistics bases in Japan? Some have argued that the answer is not days, but hours. Let’s come back to this though, after first setting the record straight on how the U.S.-Japan alliance has found itself in such a dire position.

After five years of attempting to bring Russia back into compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, earlier this month the United States, at the urging of Congress, exercised Article 15 of the treaty and notified Russia of its intent to withdraw in six months. Unsurprisingly, Russia subsequently wasted little time in officially suspending its participation in the treaty.

As a result of Russia’s decisions, following Aug. 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense will now be able to test and deploy ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5500 kilometers. The implications of this decision for Europe and the NATO alliance have been discussed at length. What has not been explored is how a post-INF world, and particularly the conventional missile aspects of said world, will affect the U.S.-Japanese alliance and America’s defense posture in East Asia. No longer restrained by the treaty, the United States will be able to work with Japan to explore a series of relatively affordable, near-term options to bolster the conventional military balance with China and impose new costs on Beijing’s military planners. The alliance will need to move carefully and with purpose to take advantage of these newfound benefits.

Read the full article and more in War on the Rocks.

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