Posts Tagged ‘People’s Republic of China’

The Hainan Island Incident, Ten Years Later

April 1, 2011
The US Navy EP-3 that landed on Hainan Island ...

Image via Wikipedia

Hard to believe, but today is the 10th anniversary of the 2001 incident in which a U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft operating above the waters of the South China Sea was struck by a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) interceptor jet. The U.S. pilot, Shane Osborn (who has gone on to be a successful politician in Nebraska), managed to keep the crippled plane in the air while the crew members hastily tried to destroy as much of the payload as possible – classified equipment and materials related to the aircraft’s surveillance mission. Unfortunately, due to the in extremis situation, the crew was only able to partially complete this task before an emergency landing was made at an airfield on Hainan Island. The crew was taken into custody and the aircraft seized.

The PRC lost the jet pilot who ran into the EP-3, but in the long run they gained a lot more. Writing in the November 1, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh detailed the take:

The plane carried twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women attached to the Naval Security Group Command, a field component of the National Security Agency. They were repatriated after eleven days; the plane stayed behind. The Pentagon told the press that the crew had followed its protocol, which called for the use of a fire axe, and even hot coffee, to disable the plane’s equipment and software. These included an operating system created and controlled by the N.S.A., and the drivers needed to monitor encrypted Chinese radar, voice, and electronic communications. It was more than two years before the Navy acknowledged that things had not gone so well. “Compromise by the People’s Republic of China of undestroyed classified material . . . is highly probable and cannot be ruled out,” a Navy report issued in September, 2003, said.

The Navy’s experts didn’t believe that China was capable of reverse-engineering the plane’s N.S.A.-supplied operating system, estimated at between thirty and fifty million lines of computer code, according to a former senior intelligence official. Mastering it would give China a road map for decrypting the Navy’s classified intelligence and operational data. “If the operating system was controlling what you’d expect on an intelligence aircraft, it would have a bunch of drivers to capture radar and telemetry,” Whitfield Diffie, a pioneer in the field of encryption, said. “The plane was configured for what it wants to snoop, and the Chinese would want to know what we wanted to know about them—what we could intercept and they could not.” And over the next few years the U.S. intelligence community began to “read the tells” that China had access to sensitive traffic.

The U.S. realized the extent of its exposure only in late 2008. A few weeks after Barack Obama’s election, the Chinese began flooding a group of communications links known to be monitored by the N.S.A. with a barrage of intercepts, two Bush Administration national-security officials and the former senior intelligence official told me. The intercepts included details of planned American naval movements. The Chinese were apparently showing the U.S. their hand. (“The N.S.A. would ask, ‘Can the Chinese be that good?’ ” the former official told me. “My response was that they only invented gunpowder in the tenth century and built the bomb in 1965. I’d say, ‘Can you read Chinese?’ We don’t even know the Chinese pictograph for ‘Happy hour.’ ”)

This incident can be considered as the opening event in a series of clashes that have marked increased tensions between the U.S. and the PRC in the South China Sea. In the next instance of conflict between the two nations, in 2009 an unarmed U.S. ocean surveillance vessel manned by civilians ran into trouble in about the same area of the South China Sea. Chinese vessels harassed the ship and nearly rammed it, while at the same time attempting to snag its towed sonar array. Since then, direct U.S.-China confrontation has been supplanted by amplified pressure between China and other countries surrounding the South China Sea, many of whom have competing claims to land features and territories in the sea such as the Spratly Islands. These tensions came to a head at the 2010 ASEAN Regional Forum, where U.S. Secretary of State Clinton declared, as a counter to resurgent PRC claims of the South China Sea as a “core interest”, that the U.S. had “a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.”

The final chapter in this dispute has yet to be written.

H/T Cheng-yi Lin

To read more about the Hainan Island Incident, see Shirley A. Kan, et al., China-U.S. Aircraft Collision Incident of April 2001: Assessments and Policy Implications, CRS Report to Congress, October 10, 2001.

Advertisements

China explosion! (not really)

March 31, 2011

There’s been an avalanche of interesting things to read about China – what’s a “China hand” to do?

China’s National Defense in 2010, Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China, March 2011

U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine – April 2011, Focus on China. A few of the main features are subscriber-only material, but there are also several articles that look very interesting available for free, such as:

A Step Too Far: Why CPGS Is The Wrong Answer to China’s Anti-Access Challenge (PDF), East-West Center Asia-Pacific Bulletin No. 102, March 24, 2011, by Iskander Rehman

Rising Power… To Do What? Evaluating China’s Power in Southeast Asia (PDF), RSIS Working Paper No. 226, March 30, 2011, by Evelyn Goh

I hope that once I’ve had a chance to read through some of this I will have some comments to add. In the meantime, here’s what a few other learned observers have to say:

China Releases National Defense 2010 White Paper – Information Dissemination

Beijing Issues Latest Defense White Paper “China’s National Defense in 2010”: Full Text and Key Excerpts – Andrew Erickson

Links of Interest 03/29/2011

March 27, 2011
P.R.of China PLA Navy emblem

Image via Wikipedia

  • tags: China naval_power military_modernization FC

    • China is deploying new submarines at an impressive rate — three a year. They are suited to pushing back U.S. power projection in the Western Pacific. China’s much-discussed ballistic and cruise missiles also seem designed to keep U.S. surface forces far from China’s soil. And China seems increasingly inclined to define the oceans off its shores as extensions of the shores — territory to be owned and controlled like “blue national soil.” This concept is incompatible with the idea of the oceans as a “common.”
  • tags: FC China space militarization jamestown

    • In all, according to Chinese analysts, as a result of the actions of the world’s major space powers, space war is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Indeed, they argue that it is already more a reality than a myth. Consequently, they conclude that China must be prepared not only to degrade an adversary’s ability to use space, but also to protect its own space capabilities. Chinese writings suggest that Beijing would consider doing so through a combination of defensive measures and deterrence.
  • tags: FC China Taiwan US

    • What all of this indicates is that it is just as easy to envision a Chinese takeover of Taiwan making security concerns worse as it is to imagine such a takeover making the security environment better. Indeed, PRC control of Taiwan could very easily further serve to escalate any future conflict elsewhere. The psychological effects on US allies and security partners of a US retreat or abandonment has already been explored at length elsewhere and will not be repeated here. What I propose instead is that analysts miss the fact that a PRC takeover of Taiwan would give the Chinese the “central position” in the Asia-Pacific.
  • Looks like a very interesting book.

    tags: nuclear FC

    • Rosenbaum, a columnist for Slate Magazine and the author of several well-received books, including Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars, has explored the danger of nuclear weapons since the late 1970s, when he published a major piece in Harper’s on nuclear command and control and weapons and the problem of “moral choice” raised by the existence of nuclear war plans like the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan). In this new and highly original book, Rosenbaum revisits these issues in an extended meditation on the risks of nuclear catastrophe in the 21st century world. By looking at the careers of key individuals such as Bruce Blair, Colonel Valery Yarnich, and Harold Hering, the challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and why the post-war system of deterrence could break down, Rosenbaum shows why nuclear peril did not go away when the Cold War ended.
  • tags: FC China US Taiwan

    • George Washington University professor Charles Glaser wrote in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs that, because a crisis over Taiwan can easily escalate to a war, the US should consider making concessions to China, backing away from its commitment to Taiwan. His views may be questioned on several bases:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 03/26/2011

March 26, 2011
SOUTH CHINA SEA (May 6, 2010) Marine amphibiou...

Image via Wikipedia

  • tags: FC China thesis

    • The CASS Asia-Pacific Blue Paper underscored the challenges facing China’s peripheral environment in terms of four types of external trends and threats.  According to the report: First, the “return” of the United States to Asia has made China less appealing to some of its neighbors, through tapping some long existing disputes and incidental security accidents.  Second, instability in Northeast Asia (i.e. North Korea) has become the most serious security challenge to China’s peripheral defense, particularly because of the Cheonon incident and Yeonpyeong artillery shelling.  Third, maritime disputes have become an important source of security tension along China’s periphery.  Fourth, some non-traditional security issues—water security in particular—have affected China’s stability and its regime security, and China’s relations with some neighbors (World Journal, January 13).
    • China’s security environment is increasingly challenged by the United States in that the latter has taken the opportunity presented by regional tensions to shore up its alliance with both South Korea and Japan, as well as through trilateral defense coordination.  If the United States’ “return” to East Asia has not been enough, Washington is also apparently revamping its relations with some Southeast Asian countries and urging these nations to hedge against China’s rise.  In July 2010, Secretary of State Clinton openly challenged China’s position on the South China Sea in her address to the 17th ARF Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi, which was bluntly rebuffed by her Chinese counterpart.
  • tags: FC China missiles Taiwan US thesis jamestown

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 03/25/2011

March 25, 2011
  • tags: soft_power China FC

    • What kind of national image has China sought to project to the world through its cultural diplomacy that distinguishes it against other Asian nations?

      I’m not sure China is trying to portray itself against other Asian nations, but I think it has used its soft power to boost its image compared to its own image of the past—its image in the 1970s and 80s and early 90s—as either disinterested in regional affairs or difficult and aggressive to deal with. Also, I think China has utilized its soft power and cultural diplomacy to try to create the idea, at least regionally, that it’s truly a good neighbour—that it shares values and heritage with its neighbours—and that the United States, in contrast, doesn’t.

  • tags: guam buildup FC USMC V-22

    • The Navy is looking for eight MV-22 Block C Containerized Flight Training Devices to be delivered starting in 2013, with the last two being installed on Guam in 2015, the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division said. Containerized Flight Training Devices are self-contained units, which house a non-motion simulator, a host computer, a visual display system, and an instructor operating station.

      The Navy, which is preparing for the transfer of 8,600 Marines, their family and support staff from Okinawa to Guam as early as 2016, said the first delivery of the CFTD’s will be to the capitol region in April, 2013.

  • tags: China internet censorship activism FC

    • The question for U.S. policymakers is how to manage these different views of cyberspace. There is going to be no silver bullet solution. There are economic disputes such as access to the Chinese market and competing technological standards. There is the espionage issue. There are the human rights and access to information issues. And there is the cyber war problem: how states might use computer network attacks in a conflict.
  • tags: us carrier Japan FC

    • THE aircraft carrier USS George Washington was moved this week from its Japanese port to avoid a potentially costly and complex clean-up to remove traces of radiation, the US Navy revealed.
  • tags: US China maritime navy book FC

    • Three members of the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) collaborated on a recently released book titled, “China, the United States, and 21st-Century Sea Power,” which explores areas of mutual maritime interest between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
  • tags: taiwan US FC

    • Former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will lead a delegation to Taiwan on Sunday for a four-day visit.
    • The delegation will meet with President Ma Ying-jeou and other high ranking officials. They will discuss US-Taiwan relations and cross-strait issues.
    • Armitage will be joined by a group of former US foreign policy and security officials on the four-day visit. The delegation will include former state department officials such as former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver.
  • tags: FC guam buildup

    • Yesterday, Naval Facilities Marianas released a statement detailing some of the projects, which amount to about $1 billion in total cost. Projects can now be awarded to contractors, who can begin designing or building complexes that Marines will use when they relocate from Okinawa to Guam in coming years.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 03/06/2011

March 6, 2011
A panorama of Beijing's CBD - China World Trad...

Image via Wikipedia

  • H/T Small Wars Journal

    tags: FC China rise Taiwan

    • The prospect of failing to attain the level of economic development before its elderly population places an unbearable strain on the country’s economy while simultaneously coping with tens of millions of idle and alienated young men may present the vaunted PRC technocracy with a challenge beyond its capabilities. As Hudson and den Boer ominously warn, “At some point, governments [will] consider how they can export their problem, either by encouraging emigration of young adult men or harnessing their energies in martial adventures abroad.”
  • tags: FC China defense budget

    • BEIJING—China’s government plans to increase its defense budget by 12.7% this year, a pickup from last year’s sharply slower growth that comes amid widening concerns about the capabilities and intentions of China’s military.
  • tags: FC China

    • China’s counterproductive policies are better understood as reactive and conservative rather than assertive, and Beijing should be encouraged by the United States and its allies to return to the more assertive but more constructive policies Beijing adopted in the two years just before the financial crisis.

      In that period China was actually more innovative, proactive and assertive than it is today. By softening its traditional prohibitions on interference in the internal affairs of other states, Beijing was able to play a constructive leadership role in addressing global problems and improve U.S.-China relations in the process.

  • tags: japan Military buildup China FC

  • In December, Tokyo announced plans to strengthen its forces in the southwestern Okinawan islands, including adding a dozen F-15s in Naha. The increase is part of a broader shift in Japanese defensive stance southward, toward China, that some analysts are calling one of Japan’s biggest changes in postwar military strategy.This strategic shift is another step in a gradual and limited buildup of Japan’s forces, aimed at keeping up with the changing power balance in Asia while remaining within the bounds of Japan’s antiwar Constitution and the constraints of its declining economic power. Political analysts say Japan is slowly raising the capabilities of its forces to respond to a more assertive China and a nuclear-armed North Korea — and to take a first, halting step out of the shadow of the United States, its postwar protector, which many Japanese fear may one day no longer have the will or ability to defend Japan.
  • The Decline of U.S. Naval Power – WSJ.com

As China’s navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany’s in World Wars I and II and the Soviet Union’s in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 03/03/2011

March 3, 2011
Sunset on the South China Sea off Mui Ne villa...

Image via Wikipedia

  • Asia: A sea of troubles | The EconomistMore on the South China Sea from The Economist (from December 2010; still worth a read if you missed it).

    tags: FC south_china_sea china US

    • Chinese naval influence is extending not just deeper, but farther from China’s shores. In 2010 Sri Lanka opened a Chinese-built port in the south, at Hambantota. Work proceeded on the port at Gwadar in Pakistan. And Chinese warships paid their first call on Myanmar. All of this fuelled Indian suspicions of a “string of pearls” strategy designed to choke its own maritime breathing-space. It is as part of this broader extension of influence that the South China Sea will be a focus of concern.

      Time to prepare for a rainy day

      That concern will be heightened by two particular aspects of China’s military modernisation. One is an unannounced aircraft-carrier programme. The other, of more immediate relevance in 2011, is China’s development of the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, which the Chinese and some foreign newspapers have touted as a “game-changing” carrier-buster.

  • The South China Sea: A sea of disputes | The EconomistWhy the South China Sea is such a thorny issue – nice overview.

    tags: FC south_china_sea china

tags: FC Taiwan China US

  • International Relations theorist Charles Glaser has joined a growing chorus calling for the abandonment of Taiwan. His take on why we should abandon the island is tucked into his “nuanced version of realism” argued on the pages of Foreign Affairs. As do most “abandon Taiwan” arguments, he begins with a “realist” argument for why war between the United States and China is unlikely. Why? Because besides Taiwan, Sino-U.S. interests are compatible.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

On Cyberwar with China, and other recent publications

March 2, 2011
Cyber-attack on Mastercard.com

There’s been a glut of military journal releases this week – the stalwart Military Review, featuring an excerpt (PDF) from Bing West‘s new book on Afghanistan; a new issue from the journal Prism, which discusses what are known as “complex operations” (basically, the messy, nation-building-type wars heavy in interagency coordination that have proliferated in the last decade) with an interesting-looking article on human security in complex operations (human security is a newer concept in security studies with the premise that without security at the human level – essentially addressing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the lowest level – then you aren’t going to be able to achieve any other type of security); and finally a new issue from Strategic Studies Quarterly. Regular readers will recall I examined an article from their last edition on the “new” Korean War and implications for Taiwan. (It came out just about when the NorKos were shelling Yeonpyeong Island and it seemed as if we were about to say goodbye to the 1953 armistice.) The latter contains an article called “Blown to Bits: China’s War in Cyberspace, August–September 2020“. (PDF) OK, you got me – I’m pretty interested in China’s computer network operations capabilities – let’s take a look at this one.

The author, Christopher Bronk, Fellow in Information Technology Policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, sets up the fictitious future cyberwar scenario by discussing the development of U.S. information warfare superiority from the 1991 Gulf War to the 1999 Kosovo War. He also mentions the other, more recent bellwethers of possible future cyber conflict, the 2007 and 2008 cyber wars on Estonia and Georgia, respectively. (The belligerent in both instances was thought to be Russia.) In the latter case (Georgia), kinetic conflict was preceded by a cyber “preparation of the battlespace” just as many analysts believe would be the case if the U.S. and China at some point come into a state of military conflict. On the prospects of such an occurrence, Bronk notes

While it is the author’s deepest and most sincere hope that no military conflict will come between China, Japan, India, the United States, or any other states of the Western Pacific and Asia, the massive interest in cyber conflict among these countries leads many to ponder such a struggle.

And so here we are. The scenario he asks us to ponder is this: it is 2020, Taiwan has completed its Finlandization, and the PRC aches for greater conquest in Asia. It sets its sites on Singapore, at the southern end of the Chinese “lake” called the South China Sea and at the eastern mouth of the Strait of Malacca, perhaps the most crucial maritime chokepoint in the Pacific Basin, if not the world. Quite plausibly, China’s actions are spurred by concerns about the security of precious seaborne fossil fuel imports coming through the Indian Ocean.

The author’s intent is not to try to present a litany of details about potential cyberwar that would be impenetrable to anyone not holding an advanced degree in theoretic mathematics or computer science, but instead to consider “how cyberwar might supplant more traditional conflict and how cyber dimensions may alter warfare.”

After laying the groundwork, the scenario begins:

Many a pundit and strategic theorist had wondered what shape unrestrained information warfare might take. The opening hours of China’s virtual war with the United States and its allies over Singapore would confirm many of the worst suspicions of that crowd. Chinese forces were quite clearly working inside the decision loop of the allied forces. Preliminary moves by the PLA in the information space indicated that it could do much damage to enemy communication and computing resources, but a series of hints would reveal that China also likely had compromised, at least to a degree, the encryption mechanisms used to secure US and allied military and diplomatic communications. At times, Beijing most probably held the capacity to have a fairly complete information picture even of very high-level, classified systems, although the reverse was also likely true.

Though the author intended to “stay out of the cyber weeds”, there is a bit of digital undergrowth to deal with, though not too much to detract from his main intent: starting a discussion about whether a forceful political goal can be achieved by cyber means alone. I think this is a lot like the shopworn, discredited thesis popular in the late 1990s that wars could be won by airpower alone that grew from the 1999 Kosovo War – it would be great if the answer was yes, but it’s not.

The scenario demonstrates ably the potential vulnerability of U.S. and allied information nets to cyber attack; the question remains if U.S. decision-makers are willing to take concrete steps now to really protect these vital information channels. Sure, the U.S. has established a formal joint command to deal with cyber issues, but in many cases the lines of responsibility have not been clearly drawn and require further clarification.

Links of Interest 02/19/2011

February 19, 2011
Typhoon Morakot (Kiko) was taken over Taiwan i...

Image via Wikipedia

  • My alma mater in the U.S. hosts one of these…though it wasn’t yet established when I was a student there.

    tags: China Confucius_Institute FC

    • Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community.
  • tags: Guam Okinawa USMC FC

    • The Japanese government is considering freezing budget expenditures for the relocation of the Futenma military base, Japanese media reported.

      According to Asahi News, such a freeze would please Japan’s radical Social Democratic Party, but would raise the ire of Washington, resulting in a further delay in the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam.

    • If the budget for Futenma-related projects are frozen, this will further delay the Guam buildup which is already delayed up to 2020.
  • tags: Guam buildup USMC FC

    • The $3.7 trillion federal budget proposal for fiscal 2012 offers more than $367 million for military construction on Guam, including the foundation of a Marine base in Finegayan.
    • The proposed budget includes about $77 million to lay water infrastructure for the Finegayan base and another $78 million to install basic utilities at the Andersen North Ramp, where Marines will need a runway and a hangar for aviation training.
  • Taiwan is also interested in increasing its amphibious capabilities for the purpose of responding to humanitarian crises such as 2009’s Typhoon Morakot.

    tags: China amphibious power FC Taiwan

    • Just a decade ago, China had only a token amphibious force. Today, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has two new, large landing ships of the Type 071 class plus the ‘Ship 866’ hospital vessel all—of them optimized for over-the-beach operations. Lighterage boosts the ships’ ability to move supplies onto shore, and retrieve patients for medical treatment.
    • Some alarmists would point to these new amphibious capabilities as proof that Beijing intends to attack Taiwan. But the systems are equally useful for disaster relief and humanitarian operations.
  • Commentary on the new U.S. long-range strike bomber program.

    tags: China anti-access US US_military FC

    • War planners argued that the bomber is needed to fly deep inside China if Beijing were to begin firing salvos of anti-satellite missiles, first successfully tested in 2007, at U.S. satellites, which are used for everything from communications to weapons targeting. The new bomber would be called on to conduct rapid strikes against ASAT launchers before the Chinese could deal a potentially deadly blow to U.S. military capabilities.
    • Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the bomber is a premier element of a “family” of long-range strike weapons that are “key to anti-access challenges that we expect to face in the future” — anti-access being Pentagon code for China in particular, which is building forces and weapons designed to prevent the U.S. military from supporting regional Asian allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • tags: China soft_power FC

    • As China becomes a global economic powerhouse, its cultural influence remains feeble, with the country’s culture industry only accounting for less than 4 percent of the world’s output, according to a blue book released on Friday.
    • However, the paper also acknowledged China’s cultural soft power development in the past years. This includes its reform of the cultural system, the development of the cultural industry, and the spread of Chinese culture overseas.

      As of November 2009, about 282 Confucius institutes, which are considered a channel and a brand name for spreading Chinese culture around the world, have been set up in higher educational institutions around the world. They are jointly held by Chinese and foreign universities.

  • tags: US China Pacific military AirSea USPACOM FC

    • The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Thursday that the Pentagon is developing new battle plans for Asia that include adding Marines to better-coordinated naval and air forces in the region where China is expanding its military might.
    • Officials said the plan responds to China‘s “anti-access” strategy of using ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines and aircraft to drive U.S. forces out of the western Pacific or limit them in aiding U.S. allies.
    • The four-star admiral’s comments were unusual because the study’s details are highly classified. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered the study in 2009 amid concerns that U.S. forces, especially the Navy and the Air Force, were unable to operate closely in a wartime scenario.
  • tags: FC Taiwan US currency debt

    • Taiwan increased its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities by 0.6 percent to US$131.9 billion in December 2010, making it the ninth largest foreign owner of U.S. government debt, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • tags: FC US defense budget China

    • As for adversaries, there are none that pose a truly existential threat to the U.S. The closest any non-ally comes is China.
    • The U.S. spends many times more on defense than China. According to the Pentagon, the Middle Kingdom shells out between $105 and $150 billion a year for defense. The U.S. “base” budget – not including money spent in Iraq or Afghanistan or money spent by the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons – is $523 billion. China understands this dynamic. That’s why China is investing in asymmetric weapons such as the “carrier killer” missile. They know they can’t afford to keep up with the U.S. in terms of dollars spent, but they can build weapons to take out more expensive weapons such as aircraft carriers with systems that cost very little. The flipside, of course, is that China’s ability to project power, the thing Americans should really feel threatened by, is quite limited.
  • A pair of Australia’s leading defense intellectuals debate how to proceed in the face of a rising China.

    tags: FC Australia China defense

  • tags: asbm China FC

    • An article in the 18 February 20[1]1 English edition of Global Times quotes “a military source close to [ballistic missile] development” as stating that “‘the Chinese-made Dong Feng 21D missile, with firing range between 1800 and 2800 kilometers, is already deployed in the army.’” The article adds: “Foreign media have also speculated that the Dong Feng 21D is a ‘carrier killer’ and would prove to be a game-changer in the Asian security environment, where US Navy aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II, the AP reported.”
    • The bottom line: the era of “ASBM denial” is over. China’s ASBM is not science fiction. It is not a “smoke and mirrors” bluff. It is not an aspirational capability that the U.S. can ignore until some point in the future.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

U.S. Navy: We don’t fear the Chinese ASBM

February 15, 2011
080925-N-9565D-001 YOKOSUKA, Japan (Sept. 25, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Eric Talmadge, “US admiral: Carrier killer won’t stop US Navy,” Washington Post, February 15, 2011

The U.S. military has had its eye on China’s “carrier killer” missile, the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (or ASBM), for some time now, especially the U.S. Navy (understandably, since it’s advertised as a direct counter to the “crown jewel” of the U.S. fleet and a lodestar of U.S. power projection capabilities). The DoD seems to go to pretty extensive lengths to put forth an image of not fearing this weapon, for instance, this today:

However, Vice Adm. Scott van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP in an interview that the Navy does not see the much-feared weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the U.S. carriers – the Navy’s crown jewels.

“It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy – it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there,” Van Buskirk said in an interview this week on the bridge of the USS George Washington, the only carrier that is home-based in the western Pacific.

Admiral Van Buskirk took command of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet last fall. 7th Fleet is the naval command that would be on the front line of a potential maritime conflict with China.

It’s not surprising that the leader of this command would come forth with a strong statement discounting the ASBM – just imagine how it would look if he made a statement saying that there was no realistic defense against the ASBM. (Not exactly confidence-inspiring!)

The truth is that nobody knows for sure if the ASBM will work as advertised. There are a number of extremely high technical hurdles that the Chinese will have to solve in order to achieve a operational, fully capable weapon system. The commander of United States Pacific Command (USPACOM – two echelons of command up the chain from 7th Fleet), Admiral Robert Willard stated in an December 2010 interview that the ASBM has reached a state of development roughly equivalent to what in the U.S. defense establishment is called “initial operational capability.” This means that some units can be expected to have received the equipment and have the ability to employ it. It does not mean, however, that all the pieces of the necessary targeting systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) networks and associated technologies are at a sufficient state of development to fully support the weapon. Indeed. many U.S. defense analysts believe that these supporting technologies are about five years away from being fully operational. (It’s probably good to point out right here that the U.S. has been pretty poor at making accurate predictions about when various Chinese military technologies and hardware will come into service – see also the J-20 stealth aircraft, the prospects of the Chinese deploying an aircraft carrier in the near term, etc.)

In the same interview, Admiral Willard stated that a full over-water test of the ASBM system had not yet been observed. There was some speculation last summer that the PRC might do such a test in conjunction with bellicose rhetoric about U.S. naval operations in the Yellow Sea, but it never came to pass. (The U.S. naval operations were part of the combined response – along with the South Koreans – to the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan by North Korea earlier in 2010.)

I’d like to go back to what Admiral Van Buskirk said about the ASBM in the quote above – “It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy – it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there.” [emphasis added] Very true. But it’s one part that is very provocative, since only China has anything like it, and because it appears to be directly intended to counter a key U.S. strength in an asymmetric fashion.

In recent testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an expert from the RAND Corporation described China’s anti-access approach to be a “system-of-systems”; that China’s ability to effectively employ its joint anti-access strategy in the Western Pacific would be dependent to a great extent on establishing an effective operational system (meaning the right kinds of units, manned with people trained in the right way) to employ its anti-access capabilities (including the ASBM), and at the same time that China still needed to work on full deployment and integration of a host of battle management and ISR networks to be able to effectively target at long distance, for instance, a U.S. aircraft carrier heading toward the Taiwan Strait. I believe this is what Admiral Van Buskirk was alluding to when saying that the ASBM is but one piece of the overall system. The U.S. has to worry about all of the threats, not just one.

A final quote:

Still, van Buskirk said the Navy has no intention of altering its mission because of the new threat and will continue to operate in the seas around Japan, Korea, the Philippines and anywhere else it deems necessary.

“We won’t change these operations because of this specific technology that might be out there,” he told The AP while the USS George Washington was in its home port just south of Tokyo for repairs last week. “But we will carefully monitor and adapt to it.”

I think that to some extent the Navy (and other branches of the U.S. armed forces) have indeed altered their operations in response to threats like the Chinese ASBM (thought it is hard to prove something like this). A greater impact in this realm has almost certainly been exerted by Chinese short- and medium-range missiles, which have been a focus of particular expansion by the Chinese over the past decade (chiefly as an axe to hold over the head of Taiwan). One could in fact argue that a factor in the shift of some U.S. troops from Okinawa in the much more distant U.S. outpost of Guam has been the Chinese ballistic missile threat. Okinawa is well within range of several types of Chinese ballistic missiles and its utility as a platform to support U.S. combat operations in a China contingency could be degraded quite quickly by the wealth of missile capabilities the PRC would potentially be able to lavish upon it. No wonder the U.S. wants to be able to port an aircraft carrier in Guam and is also expanding its air power and ISR profile there.


%d bloggers like this: