An Intensifying Arms Race in Asia

By Reuters
September 21Chinashare
An Intensifying Arms Race in Asia
Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Rankin is seen during AUSINDEX 21, a biennial maritime exercise between the Royal Australian Navy and the Indian Navy, in Darwin, Australia, on Sept. 5, 2021. (POIS Yuri Ramsey/Australian Defence Force via Getty Images)

Analysts warn that Asia may be sliding into an accelerating arms race as countries react to the Chinese regime’s military growth.

The following is a list of the defense systems several Asian countries have bought or are looking to acquire.


The country said on Sept. 16 it would build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines under an Indo-Pacific security partnership with the United States and Britain.

Australia will also enhance its long-range strike capability with Tomahawk cruise missiles deployed on naval destroyers and air-to-surface missiles for its F/A-18 Hornet and F-35A Lightning II jets, that can hit targets at a range of 559 miles.

Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) will be deployed on its F/A-18F Super Hornet jets, while precision strike guided missiles capable of destroying targets from over 250 miles are planned for its land forces.

It will also collaborate with the United States to develop hypersonic missiles under the trilateral security deal, dubbed AUKUS.

Separately, the U.S. State Department approved in June the potential sale of 29 Boeing Co AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Australia in a deal worth up to $3.5 billion.


Taiwan announced a plan on Friday to spend $8.69 billion over the next five years to upgrade its weapons capabilities—a program that is likely to include long-range missiles and existing cruise missiles.

The program will include a new missile, which Taiwanese media say could have a range of up to 760 miles and is an upgraded version of the Hsiung Sheng cruise missile.

In 2020, the U.S. government approved the potential sale of 100 Boeing-made Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems, three weapons systems including missiles, sensors and artillery, and four sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan. They are worth about $5 billion in total.

Last month, Washington approved the potential sale of 40 howitzer systems to Taiwan in a deal valued at up to $750 million.

South Korea

The government successfully tested a conventional submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Sept. 15, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system.

The missile is believed to be a variant of the country’s ground-based Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a flight range of about 310 miles.

Last year, it developed the Hyunmoo-4 missile, which has a 500-mile range and can mount a 2-ton payload.

South Korea unveiled other new missiles, including a supersonic cruise missile to be deployed soon.

It has been striving to develop solid-fuel rocket engines as part of a plan to launch a spy satellite by the late 2020s, and successfully carried out a test firing in July.

Its defense ministry, in a midterm plan released in 2020, detailed a proposal to build three submarines. Officials have said two of them—with a displacement of 3,000 tons and 3,600 tons—will be based on diesel engines, but declined to specify how the largest one, at 4,000 tons, would be powered.

Building a nuclear submarine has been among President Moon Jae-in’s election pledges, but he has never officially announced a plan since taking office in 2017.

North Korea

In July 2019 North Korean state media showed leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a large, newly built, submarine. While it did not describe the submarine’s weapons, analysts said the apparent size of the vessel indicated it was designed to carry ballistic missiles.

Later that year, nuclear-armed North Korea said it had successfully test-fired a new SLBM from the sea, and in January showcased a new SLBM design during a military parade in Pyongyang.

Its state media said this month the country tested its first railway-based missile launching system.


The Chinese regime is mass-producing its DF-26, a multipurpose weapon that can be fitted with nuclear warheads and has a range of up to 2,485 miles.

At a 2019 parade, the Chinese communist regime also unveiled new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and showcased its advancing intercontinental and hypersonic missiles, designed to attack the aircraft carriers and bases that undergird U.S. military strength in Asia.

Its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17, can theoretically maneuver at many times the speed of sound, making it more difficult to counter.

China also has DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the backbone of its nuclear deterrent, which are capable of reaching the United States with multiple warheads.


Japan has spent millions of dollars on long-range air-launched weapons, and is developing a new version of a truck-mounted anti-ship missile, the Type 12, with an expected range of 620 miles.

In 2020, the U.S. State Department authorized a deal for Japan to buy 105 Lockheed F-35 fighter jets at an estimated cost of $23 billion.

By Hyonhee Shin, John Mair and Ben Blanchard