30 December 2010

Financial Times: “China Missile Shifts Power in Pacific”

Kathrin Hille, China Missile Shifts Power in Pacific,” Financial Times, 28 December 2010.

A new Chinese anti-ship missile that will significantly alter the balance of military power in the Pacific is now operational, according to a senior US commander. …

“So now we know – China’s [anti-ship ballistic missile] is no longer aspirational,” Andrew Erickson, an expert on the Chinese military at the US Naval War College, said in response to Adm Willard’s comments to the Asahi newspaper.

Defence analysts have called the Dongfeng 21 D missile a “game changer” since it could force US aircraft carriers to stay away from waters where China does not want to see them. These include the Taiwan Strait where a potential conflict could develop over the self-ruled island which China claims. …

Earlier this year, Adm Willard noted that China’s ASBM was undergoing extensive testing and was close to deployment. Observers believe China started production of missile motors last year and that the Chinese military is preparing a nuclear missile base in the southern city of Shaoguan for their deployment.

Defence analysts have also linked several missile flight tests this year to the new weapon, but no conclusive evidence has been available to date.

Adm Willard’s latest comments appear to remove any doubts. The term “initial operational capability” as used by the Pentagon indicates that some military units have started deployment of the weapon and are capable of using it.

“Beijing has successfully developed, tested, and deployed the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers,” said Mr Erickson. …

For detailed analysis of Admiral Willard’s statement regarding China’s ASBM, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’: DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches ‘Initial Operational Capability’ (IOC),” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 14 (26 December 2010).

For further background on Chinese ASBM development, see also “China Testing Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM); U.S. Preparing Accordingly–Updated With Latest Analysis & Sources.”