The growing number and modernization of ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific — including Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan — pose a security challenge for the US and its allies, a congressional report says.
As a result, Washington has made ballistic missile defense a “central component” of its strategy, the report says.
The Congressional Research Service report, titled Ballistic Missile Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region: Cooperation and Opposition, concludes that “as a matter of policy” the US will extend deterrence to protect its allies.
“In essence, this means the US will help deter threats to these allies and, if deterrence fails, use US assets to defeat these threats,” the report says.
China’s strategic missile forces, known as the Second Artillery Corps, field short and medium range missiles intended “most prominently” to deter Taiwan from formalizing its separation from China, the report says.
Almost all of China’s short-range ballistic missiles — more than 1,100 — are deployed opposite Taiwan, it says.
China is also developing its own missile defense technology, the report says and an “element of competition” is growing between the US and China in the technological development of ballistic missile defense systems.
The US has an array of ballistic missile defense “assets” deployed in the region, inclucing SM-3 interceptors on Aegis-equipped destroyers, PAC-3 batteries at military bases and early-warning sensors on land at sea and in space.
China appears to be “particularly anxious” about the implications of integration of command and control systems between the US and Japan, the report says.
It says Beijing also worries about strengthened US alliances with South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.
The Chinese are also concerned by the potential of ballistic missile defense programs to undermine its conventional deterrent against Taiwan, the report says.
“China has stationed a large number of conventional short range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, with the goal of deterring Taiwan from formalizing its separation from China,” the report says.
Chinese military experts have warned that US ballistic missile defense programs — and particularly the sale of missile defense systems to Taiwan — send “wrong signals to the Taiwan independence forces,” it says.
“The implication is that ballistic missile defense programs may give the Taiwanese a sense of greater security, emboldening some to ignore the Chinese missile threat and actively resist China’s efforts to unify with Taiwan,” the report says.
However, the US has been “unsympathetic to this set of Chinese concerns,” it says.
During the 1990s the US sold Taiwan three Patriot missile defense fire units with PAC-2 Guidance Enhanced Missiles and additional PAC-3 systems were sold in 2008 and 2010.
Amid reports the US might install X-band radar systems in Japan and the Philippines, a Chinese military academic said “it would be the same as putting a safety helmet on Taiwan and laying down preparations for future intervention in the Taiwan Strait,” the report says.