Counterattacks have begun
The author, a former editorial writer and director of the Institute for Military and Security Affairs at the JoongAng Ilbo, is a senior researcher of the institute.
The democratic states’ response to China has begun. Their joint statement after the G7 Summit in the UK is aimed at establishing a coalition of democracies to stop China from threatening the rules-based international order. China desires to expel the United States from the Asian theater while Russia intimidates Europe with warhead-tipped hypersonic missiles and combat robots. North Korea also can put pressure on South Korea, the U.S. and Japan with over 100 nuclear weapons and ICBMs. If the three countries should be provoked simultaneously, the world order could change rapidly. Conflict could reach a peak around 2035. A third world war could be the last one among humans. After 2050, an AI war could evolve.
War is preceded by competition, deterrence, and conflict. The latest G7 and NATO summits were designed to brace for the deterrence phase of war — or a preliminary step to warn an enemy not to cross a line. During the Cold War era, America and Russia were engaged in a fierce arms race, but a disaster was averted thanks to the fear of mutually assured destruction (MAD).
To prevent a cataclysmic disaster, the NATO Summit released a new strategic concept called NATO 2030, which will be officially adopted by member countries in 2022. The strategy is expected to play a pivotal role in stabilizing the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic together with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) among the U.S., Japan, Australia and India. The development means a coalition of the Quad — aimed at checking China’s aggressive expansion in Asia — and NATO designed to protect Europe from enemies.
NATO’s new strategic concept proposed by U.S. President Joe Biden at the summit in the UK has not been disclosed yet. But the aggressive tone of the concept is obvious. NATO leaders defined China’s expansionist policy as a “structural challenge” to the international order as China can provoke a fundamental shift in the norm-based international order. The fear is being fueled by the ever-closer Sino-Russian military cooperation as seen in their aircraft’s joint penetration of the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (Kadiz) over the East Sea last December.
Strategic competition that started between a NATO-led coalition of democracies and a group of Communist nations is expected to gain momentum four to five years from now and reach climax around 2035 when Chinese leader Xi Jinping wraps up his “China dream.” In the lead-up to the final year of China’s crusade, skirmishes and clashes could happen anytime. China plans to block U.S. warships from entering the South and East China Seas. If U.S. vessels nevertheless approach, China will destroy them with missiles, including Dongfeng-21D, the so-called “carrier killer.” China has even developed hypersonic missiles and stealth fighter jets. It increased aircraft carriers from two to six and is hurriedly building Aegis-equipped destroyers. If China invades Taiwan sooner or later, Russia and North Korea could be tempted to join.
NATO’s concerns are focused on counterattacks from old opponents. After its crushing defeat in the Cold War, Communism made a surprising comeback in the 21st century in China under Xi Jinping’s rule just like it did in Russia and North Korea.
The three countries share totalitarianism systems basically rooted in autocracy. Xi, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are like monarchs who do not have fixed terms. They also ignore international rules and human rights. In history, autocracy was inevitably accompanied by tyranny — and again by totalitarianism — to secure more natural resources and expand influence, as clearly witnessed in Germany, Italy and Japan before World War II. As autocracy entailed an international war, NATO leaders portrayed it “structural challenges.”
Seeing it as a serious issue, the United States is revamping its Army. It plans to launch the Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF), a rapid response force that can integrate and operate the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Marines, the Space Force and regional commands. The MDTF reacts to adversaries’ attacks through long-range precision weapons. A recent document from the Department of the Army has described the goals of the new combined forces as coping with a potentially massive combat situation with China or Russia around 2035. Existing U.S. forces can hardly respond to Russia and China’s provocations in time. The U.S Army plans to create 5 MDTFs — one in the U.S. mainland, two in Indo-Pacific regions, and one each in Europe and the Arctic Sea. An MDTF to be deployed to Germany will start to work from as early as September.
The new combined force has a sophisticated weapons system. If China makes a provocation, its long-range hypersonic weapon (LRHWs) are fired at targets in China within the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) range. If China wants to occupy Taiwan, it should fire LRHWs from Guam or submarines in the Pacific. MDTF operates in conjunction with U.S. Forces overseas and allies. The U.S. lifting of restrictions on the missile range is strategically linked to the need to escalate South Korea’s missile capability for emergency.
The United States wants to create a “ghost fleet” comprised of stealth destroyers and robot vessels in 2025 to effectively counter China’s anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) strategy which will be activated around that time to prevent an advancing military force from entering an operational area and limit an adversarial force’s freedom of action within an operational area. The Pentagon is also considering a colossal revamp of the U.S. Army stationed in the Pacific by 2028 to launch six security force assistance brigades (SFABs) to cooperate with and support allies’ forces. In that case, considerable changes are anticipated in the U.S. Forces Korea.
Because there is a limit to America dealing with a resurgent Russia and China on its own, U.S. President Joe Biden urged NATO members to join in the campaign and issued a joint statement in Belgium last week. Despite heightened tensions around the globe, South Korea doesn’t seem concerned in the least. Sexual harassment continues to take place in the military, soldiers’ discipline is cracking, and the government is still suspicious of a North Korean torpedo attack on the Cheonan warship, which sank in 2010 in the West Sea. South Korea is surrounded by North Korea, China and Russia, all nuclear powers. Yet the liberal administration does not make any demand for nuclear dismantlement from North Korea. The uniquely sad history must not be repeated whatsoever.