SEOUL: Asia slips into a dangerous arms race as smaller nations that once stood on the sidelines build advanced long-range missile arsenals, following in the footsteps of Chinese and US powers, analysts say.

China is mass-producing its DF-26 – a multipurpose weapon with a range of up to 4,000 kilometers – while the United States is developing new weapons aimed at countering Beijing in the Pacific.

Other countries in the region are buying or developing their own new missiles, motivated by security concerns about China and the desire to reduce their dependence on the United States.

Before the decade is out, Asia will be bristling with conventional missiles that fly farther and faster, strike harder and are more sophisticated than ever – a stark and dangerous change from recent years, analysts, diplomats say and military officials.

“The missile landscape is changing in Asia, and it is changing rapidly,” said David Santoro, President of the Pacific Forum.

Such weapons are increasingly affordable and accurate, and as some countries acquire them, their neighbors don’t want to be left behind, analysts said. Missiles offer strategic advantages such as deterring enemies and increasing leverage with allies, and can be a lucrative export.

The long-term implications are uncertain, and there is a slim chance that the new weapons could balance tensions and help keep the peace, Santoro said.

“The proliferation of missiles is more likely to fuel suspicion, trigger arms races, increase tensions and ultimately cause crises and even wars,” he said.

– Reuters

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