25 August 2010

Asahi Shimbun Quotes Adm. Willard: China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile is Nearly Operational

Yoichi Kato, China’s Anti-Ship Missile is Nearly Operational,” Asahi Shimbun, 26 August 2010.

A ballistic missile under development in China for the purpose of deterring and attacking U.S. aircraft carriers in the western Pacific is close to becoming operational, according to Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Willard provided the assessment in a [24 August] round table discussion with Japanese media in Tokyo. …

Asked how he perceives the current status of development, Willard said, “To our knowledge, it has undergone repeated tests and it is probably very close to being operational.” …

Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College, and a leading authority on China’s ASBMs, said other recent indications of China’s progress in the development of ASBMs include the launch of multiple advanced surveillance satellites, which probably offer better coverage of critical areas along China’s maritime periphery for targeting. Other U.S. experts suggest that the first ASBM launch sites may be under construction.

Erickson also writes, “If and when China’s DF-21D is developed sufficiently, Beijing might reveal a dramatic weapon test to the world—with or without advance warning—in some way geared to influencing official and public opinion in the United States, Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific” (region). He also points out, “The fact of a hit, however manipulated and revealed, could change the strategic equation.” …

Erickson said in his recent presentation, “I do not think China is working to start a war here. Neither is the United States.” He went on: “There is so much at stake here. Our two countries, as well as all the other countries in the region and around the world, have so much strategic interests to share. It would be really a shame if this (ASBM) will be allowed to spiral out of control.”

He echoed Willard’s call for the need to stress the importance of resuming military-to-military dialogue between the United States and China in this regard.

Click here for the latest analysis and sources on Chinese ASBM development.