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“U.S. deterrence eroding” due to China’s military buildup: Former INDOPACOM Commander

By Sonoda Koji, Washington correspondent


Philip Davidson, a retired U.S. Navy admiral who served as the Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) until April this year, gave an interview to the Asahi Shimbun and expressed a deep sense of alarm, saying that “the U.S. deterrence has eroded” as a result of China’s military buildup. The former commander stressed that the deterrence against China would be enhanced by the U.S. plan to establish a network of missile platforms along the First Island Chain, which includes Kyushu and Okinawa.


“Security paradigm is undergoing significant change”


In March, Davidson triggered debate in security circles when he warned the Senate that China could invade Taiwan “in the next six years.” He pointed out that the Chinese military is “closing the capability gap” with the U.S. by investing in state-of-the art fighter jets and hypersonic missiles; conducting thorough training exercises in waters around the Senkaku Islands, Taiwan, and the South China Sea; and reorganizing the structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In particular, hypersonic missiles and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, called “Guam Killers” for their ability to reach Guam, have “significantly changed the security paradigm.”


From this perspective, Davidson explained his giving a specific time frame, “in the next six years,” by saying, “I judged the threat of (a Chinese assault on Taiwan) exists in that time frame by considering various factors including the political ambitions of Chinese leader Xi Jinping who hopes to remain at the helm of government for a fourth term.” Davidson indicated that 2027 will have a particular significance for Xi who eyes a fourth term [because it is the year of the next congress of the Communist Party].


Davidson also remarked on the INDOPACOM initiative to establish a network of missile platforms with a range of 5,000 or more kilometers  along the First Island Chain. “We cannot deter (an adversary) solely by defense capability,” he said. “An adversary must be made aware that (if it chose to attack,) it would suffer punitive consequences through skyrocketing economic and military costs,” Davidson said, further stressing that the missile platforms will “increase the U.S. deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.”


Davidson said that he understands some countries need to make big policy decisions. As for the possibility of deploying the intermediate-range missiles on the Japanese archipelago, Davidson only responded, “I cannot answer that question,” adding, “I expect Japan to make its own strategic choices.”

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