Prospect of Star Wars in Asia Alarms Yank Strategists

Korea’s hawkish president is due in Washington next week and will speak before Congress.

AP/Andrew Harnik, pool
The British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, and Secretary Blinken meet during a G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the Prince Karuizawa hotel, Karuizawa, Japan, April 18, 2023. AP/Andrew Harnik, pool

Add Communist China’s expanding nuclear force and North Korea’s plans to launch its first military spy satellite to the fast-rising threats America is facing in Asia. Expect both to be on the agenda when the hawkish president of South Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol, goes to Washington next week for a summit with President Biden and an address before Congress.

The prospect of Star Wars alarms American military strategists, who fear  America’s mammoth defense industry isn’t fast enough in coming up with super-high-tech weaponry. That will be crucial for defending America’s Asian allies, notably Japan and South Korea, against our worst foes, China, Russia, and North Korea.

The commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, said he believes America has to accelerate the research, development, and production of hypersonic missiles to counter the threat of China’s nukes and missiles.

The Chinese rank a distant third behind Russia and America with only a few hundred nuclear warheads, but it is producing them rapidly, replacing new with old and on track to have a stockpile of about 2,500 in 12 years, according to the Pentagon. North Korea is estimated to have about 60 and counting.

Those numbers are far behind the inventories of Russia and America, both of which have nearly 6,000 warheads. Admiral Aquilino, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, conveyed his alarm about the Chinese program. The Americans need to “go faster” to counter “the pace, the speed and the advanced capabilities” of the Chinese.

Increasing the dangers, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, told the North’s space agency to launch a spy satellite in April. The North has previously put small satellites into orbit as a cover for testing the launch facilities for long-range ballistic missiles, but never had the eyes in the sky for spying on its enemies.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency quoted Mr. Kim as calling for the North’s space agency to “speed up its preparations and firmly establish the satellite intelligence-gathering capability by deploying several reconnaissance satellites in different orbits.”

There was speculation that Mr. Kim is pressing for the launch of the satellite before South Korea’s president goes to Washington next week.

Or Mr. Kim could be looking ahead to the G-7 summit at Hiroshima, May 19-21, when Mr. Biden hopes to cement relationships with the leaders of the seven biggest industrialized democracies, including Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Canada.

The American secretary of state, Antony Blinken, joined other G-7 foreign ministers early this week at the resort town of Karuizawa north of Tokyo, during which they pledged to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion “for as long as it takes.”

The communique attacked Russia in the harshest language, recalling “the importance of the 77-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons since 1945” and denouncing President Putin, without using his name, for raising the specter of a nuclear holocaust.

“Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and its threat to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus are unacceptable,” it said, warning, “Any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences.” In particular, the communique condemned “Russia’s continued seizure and militarization of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant” in southeastern Ukraine.

In a warning to China and North Korea, the ministers repeated calls on “third parties to cease assistance to Russia’s war, or face severe costs.”

The ministers were more circumspect in their approach to the Republic of China on Taiwan, which all their governments recognize as indeed a province of the People’s Republic of China with its capital in Beijing.

Without naming Taiwan, they called on China to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and abstain from threats, coercion, and intimidation or the use of force — a reference to Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Straits separating the island from the mainland.

The ministers also “remained seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas” — a reference to both the Taiwan Straits, sometimes called the East Sea, and to the South China Sea, which China claims as Chinese territory.  

China denounced the communique, lodging “stern representations to Japan” for hosting the summit and blasting the G-7 ministers for their “arrogance, prejudice and deliberate desire to block and contain China.”

Americans, though, were more concerned about China’s long-range build-up. While America relies on nuclear aircraft carriers, carrying planes with the ability to drop nuclear warheads anywhere, the Chinese may be soaring ahead with still more sophisticated weapons.

It was China’s “rapid technological change” that most impressed America’s principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security, Jedidiah Royal. 

China’s “significant and fast-paced expansion” could be used for “biological and chemical weapons,” Bloomberg News quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, Chinese surveillance balloons have been hovering far above the earth’s surface undetected by America’s forces below.

The New York Sun

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