A new US military study concluded that the massive missile force China has aimed at Taiwan is being constantly enhanced and improved.
While the actual number of missiles may not have increased much over the past few years — there are believed to be about 1,600 in total — China is introducing newer missiles with better range, accuracy and warheads.
“It [China] has fielded a large, diverse array of increasingly capable short range ballistic missiles, particularly within range of Taiwan,” the report by US Naval War College associate professor Andrew Erickson and senior RAND Corp political scientist Michael Chase said.
Published in this month’s National Interest, the report argues that China’s efforts to undermine Japan’s administrative control over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台列嶼), which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan also claims, are raising the possibility of a crisis that could draw in the US by challenging the credibility of the US’ extended deterrence.
“To deter negative Chinese actions in this vital but volatile region while avoiding dangerous escalation, Washington must better understand the ultimate instrument of Chinese deterrence: the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Force [PLASAF], which controls the country’s land-based nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles and its ... land-attack cruise missiles,” the report said.
Possessing the world’s second-largest economy and a growing defense budget has enabled China to deploy more formidable military capabilities, Erickson and Chase said.
They said that Beijing wants to wield these capabilities to increase its leverage in disputes regarding island and maritime intervention “in the event of a conflict with one of its neighbors.”
The PLASAF’s ballistic missile development program has produced longer-range, more accurate, improved-payload missiles to upgrade its existing arsenal.
“China’s missile force has deployed a variety of systems, including short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, mobile conventionally armed medium-range ballistic missiles for regional deterrence and conventional-strike operations, and new mobile, nuclear-armed ICBMs for strategic deterrence,” the report said.
The report said that to increase its influence over disputed territorial and maritime claims around its contested periphery in peacetime and, if necessary, through wartime operations, China has developed and deployed the world’s foremost force of theater ballistic missiles.
At the theater level, China’s missile force is capable of supporting a variety of types of campaigns against Taiwan, the report said.
The report cites a US Department of Defense finding that China probably could not now enforce a full military blockade, particularly if a major naval power intervened, but its ability to do so would “improve significantly” within 10 years.
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