On August 2, 2019, the United States formally withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. It occurred in response to a Russian violation: the illegal deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile, the 9M792. However, Russia’s violation was not the only factor for Washington. As a non-signatory to the INF Treaty, China’s major build-up of its regional ballistic and cruise missile force has seriously eroded the U.S. conventional military advantage in East Asia.
In response to the threat posed by China’s missile force, some experts have proposed that the United States and its allies deploy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles of their own as a way to re-establish a more favorable conventional military balance in the region. There are significant military benefits to such a proposal: Ground-based systems are highly survivable, cost effective, and would help increase magazine capacity.
But the political challenges associated with deploying ground-launched missile systems in democratic states are significant. A more effective strategy would be for the United States and its allies to: 1) improve their air- and sea-based cruise missile capabilities in the region; 2) advance pragmatic arms control and risk reduction measures aimed at enhancing dialogue and limiting Chinese missile capabilities; and 3) enhance the resiliency of their critical infrastructure, especially space and cyber systems.
Over the past decade, China has significantly improved its military capabilities, especially those designed to prevent potential adversaries from projecting power into the region. As Lieutenant