30 December 2010

Taipei Times: “Expert Downplays PRC Threat to Taiwan”

William Lowther, Expert Downplays PRC Threat to Taiwan,” Taipei Times, 30 December 2010, p. 1.

A US military expert is playing down the threat to Taiwan of China’s new DF-21D ballistic anti-ship missile, which is said to be capable of sinking an aircraft carrier.

Four-star US Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the US Pacific Command, made headlines earlier this week when he revealed for the first time that the missile was now in the early stages of deployment.

There are widespread fears the missile could be a “game changer” and that it could deny the US access to the seas around Taiwan, making it impossible for Washington to dispatch an aircraft carrier group to help defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

The Financial Times of London reported that the missile 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,” it said.

However, defense analyst John Pike, founder of the Washington-based think tank Global Security, told the Taipei Times: “The Pentagon can counter this missile. We would know that it was aimed at the carrier; why would we doubt our ability to shoot it down before it reached target?”

“You are going to have to fire several interceptors per incoming warhead, making the economics less palatable, but we have the money,” he said. “This missile is not a game changer. It will not stop us defending Taiwan.” …

Andrew Erickson, a professor at the US Naval War College, said the admiral’s comments on the missile deployment meant that China must have conducted a rigorous testing program.

While the missile was “doubtless an area of continuous challenge and improvement,” Erickson said, its command, control, communications, computers, information, surveillance and reconnaissance infrastructure must be sufficient at this stage to support its use.

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.”