Monday, February 8, 2016

James J. Coyle: China's mounting military aspirations

Published in the Orange County Register on February 19, 2014. To access the original article, click here.
In the event that nuclear deterrence between the United States and China breaks down, the Chinese contingency plan is to launch submarine-based nuclear missiles at the American mainland, causing the estimated deaths of 5 to 12 million people. This report comes from the pro-Communist Chinese daily newspaper the Global Times.
China is building up its military might. Type 094 submarines, also known as Jin-class, will begin patrols in 2014, carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of 8,700 miles. They could remain in the Eastern Pacific and still reach targets on the West Coast. With five vessels planned, it will allow China to maintain at least one submarine on patrol at all times.
The naval buildup includes the deployment of the anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21D. This missile will increase China's capability for near-precision strikes out to the second island chain. Military analyst Larry Wortzel's take on the missile is blunt: it's a big deal, we don't have a counter for it and it forces us away from China's coasts. The response from Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, is not reassuring: “We're working on it.”
In November, China launched its tenth surface combat vessel with an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar system, the equivalent of our Aegis radar system. They also have begun patrols with their formerly Ukrainian aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Provincial Communist party secretary Wang Min announced China is building a second carrier and is planning on four by 2020.
China's estimated nuclear strength is only 200-300 warheads, but those that are deployed on land are hidden in a 3,000 mile network of tunnels. China's new DF-41 ICBM is a mobile missile that can be hidden anywhere in the network and is capable of carrying up to 10 multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles to parts of the United States.
China recently tested a new, hypersonic glide vehicle – tentatively named the WU-14 – combining the maneuverability of America's drone aircraft with the speed of a ballistic missile. The vehicle travels under power to the edge of space, before returning to Earth as a glider at speeds of nearly 8,000 miles an hour. A U.S. Air Force technical intelligence specialist testified the ultra-high speeds make the aggressors difficult to counter with missile defense interceptors. U.S. House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon said that the test shows the Chinese military are “leaping ahead of us” in arms development.
McKeon pointed out that, despite all the talk about an Obama administration's pivot to Asia, the budget for the U.S. Pacific Command is being reduced. He said military leaders have no choice except to cut end strength, readiness and capabilities.
All countries have the right to self-defense. China is within its rights to challenge American military superiority.
In an era of U.S. defense cutbacks, however, China appears on the verge of dividing the Pacific Ocean between a Chinese West and an American East.
This does not bode well for American allies such as Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand and Australia. China's recent unilateral declarations of control over contested waters and air defense identification zones, combined with military muscle, endangers such long-cherished American principles as freedom of navigation on the high seas.
James J. Coyle is the director of Global Education at Chapman University and is the chair of the Eurasian committee of the Pacific Council on International Policy.