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China ‘A2/AD’ threat

Wallace “Chip” Gregson, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, disclosed this week that the Pentagon has coined a new acronym for the threat posed by China’s special missiles and other advanced weapons.

Anti-access and area-denial weapons are now called A2/AD arms and pose a major challenge to key U.S. strategic objectives for keeping stability in the Asia Pacific region, said Gen. Gregson, a retired Marine lieutenant general, during a speech Tuesday to the Progressive Policy Institute.

“These [weapons] are designed to deny access to the Western Pacific region or to deny the ability to operate within that vital area,” he said. “A2/AD systems threaten our primary means of projecting power: our bases, our sea and air assets, and the networks that support them.”

On China’s overall role in Asia, Gen. Gregson warned that “it has become increasingly evident that China is pursuing a long-term, comprehensive military buildup that could upend the regional security balance.”

The A2/AD weapons are not limited to a single weapon system or tactics but instead are “a series of overlapping capabilities across multiple domains,” he said.

Of particular concern, Gen. Gregson noted, is China’s new anti-ship ballistic missile, a precision-guided conventional missile that can hit aircraft carriers and other ships at sea. The new missile is one “we have been watching for some years,” he said.

Others include advanced submarines, surface-to-air missiles, anti-satellite weapons, and computer-network-warfare weapons and techniques.

His comments are in stark contrast to those of many other Obama administration officials who have sought to play down China’s military buildup as non-threatening.

Gen. Gregson said military modernization itself is not a threat but that “the U.S. shares the concern of many in the region that this type of military buildup far exceeds China’s defensive needs.”

“In addition, these kinds of weapons threaten to undermine the basic norms that have bolstered East Asian peace and prosperity, such as open access to sea lanes for commerce and security assistance,” he said. “We call upon China to become more transparent regarding its military capabilities, expenditures and intentions. We are not asking for an unreasonable degree of disclosure - simply enough to allow all parties to avoid miscalculation.”

Gen. Gregson criticized China for keeping its priorities and intentions “opaque and uncertain” and noted that Beijing’s “willingness to act as a responsible major power is not yet fully evident.”

On China’s failure to press North Korea, he said, “China’s role as a regional actor can determine whether the region retains its basic stability or drifts closer to conflict.”

Korea war fears

Tensions continue to mount on the Korean Peninsula as pressure is growing on South Korea’s government to take some type of military action against North Korea for its recent artillery shelling of a border island that killed two civilians and two marines.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon ( He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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