China should not be surprised on US considering to deploy ground-based missiles in Asia: Pentagon chief

China should not be surprised on United States considering to deploy conventional ground-based, intermediate-range missiles in Asia, United States Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said in interview en route to Sydney, Australia on August 2.

“They should be unsurprised, because we’ve been talking about this for some time now. And they have – I want to say that 80 percent-plus of their inventory is INF-range systems, so why would – that shouldn’t surprise them that we would want to have a light capability,” Esper said.

“What we want to do is deter conflict and compete with China and other countries in the economic realm, and diplomatically, if you will as well,” he said.

When asked on the timeline of deployment, “that’s what we’re just discussing. I would prefer months,” he said.

“I wouldn’t speculate because all those things depend on our plans. Those are things we – you always discuss with your allies. There’s a number of factors that weigh in there, so I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We need to first focus on programs and getting the systems right,” he said when asked on where in Asia the deployment would be.