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Nikkei reporting that the US Indo-Pacific Command is seeking USD27.4bn over the course of the next six years in order to build up a precision-strike missile system along the so-called 'first island chain' in Asia as a major conventional deterrent to any aggressive Chinese action in the region.

  • The first island chain is seen in Beijing as a crucial line of defence against the US in the East and South China Seas, with the aim of the PLA of pushing the US out further into the Pacific behind the second island chain (see map below).

Map of Pacific Island Chains

Source: Defense News

  • Nikkei quotes from a report to Congress from the Indo-Pacific Command titled the 'Pacific Deterrence Initiative', stating that "The greatest danger to the future of the United States continues to be an erosion of conventional deterrence. Without a valid and convincing conventional deterrent, China is emboldened to take action in the region and globally to supplant U.S. interests. As the Indo-Pacific's military balance becomes more unfavorable, the U.S. accumulates additional risk that may embolden adversaries to unilaterally attempt to change the status quo."
  • The USD27.4bn request for 2021-27 represents a 36% increase on the funding used in the period ending 2020.
  • The expiration of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 would allow for the creation of such a missile array. At present China has an overwhelming land-based missile advantage in the region, with the US reliant on air and naval power inside the second island chain rather than a land-based array.