China’s military can destroy five out of six U.S. bases in Asia with waves of missile strikes as the result of its large-scale military buildup that threatens U.S. access and freedom of navigation in East Asia, according to a forthcoming congressional report.
“The main implication of China’s improved air and conventional missile capabilities is a dramatic increase in the [People’s Liberation Army’s] ability to inhibit U.S. military operations in the region,” a late draft of the report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission concludes.
The U.S. government has growing concerns over what the report says are “China’s improving capabilities to challenge the U.S. military’s freedom of access in East Asia.”
The draft report - the final version is set for release Wednesday - has been disclosed as tensions in Asia intensify over growing assertiveness by the Chinese military in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
President Obama, during his recent visit to Asia, frequently mentioned growing U.S. concerns about “maritime security” and the need for stronger alliances against regional threats.
In Japan on Saturday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan thanked Mr. Obama for U.S. support during Tokyo’s recent dispute with China over Chinese fishing near Japan’s Senkaku Islands.
“For the peace and security of the countries in the region, the presence of the United States and the presence of the U.S. military, I believe, is becoming only increasingly important,” Mr. Kan said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last month during the Japan-China dispute that the Senkakus are covered by the U.S.-Japanese defense treaty, a signal to China that the U.S. military is prepared to defend the islands from Chinese encroachment.
The United States also could face a Chinese missile strike on its bases and ships in a future conflict with China over Taiwan, according to the China commission report.
In addition to missiles, the Chinese military buildup includes major deployments and upgrades of Chinese jet fighters that have increased ranges and better weapons, as well as greatly improved air defenses, the report says.
The report says that in the event of a conflict, China missiles alone would be enough to attack and shut down five of the six major U.S. military bases in the region. Guam is the exception because it is 1,800 miles from China.
China’s growing long-range bomber arsenal, however, means the “PLA Air Force’s bomber fleet soon could allow it to target Guam, where the sixth U.S. Air Force base is located,” the report says.
Guam is the site of a major U.S. military buildup in Asia, with the addition of new submarines and bombers and spy aircraft.
U.S. bases vulnerable to Chinese missile attack include two in South Korea, namely Osan and Kunsan air bases, the report says. Each could be destroyed with attacks by 480 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and 350 ground-launched cruise missiles for each base. The bases are some 240 to 400 miles from China.
In Japan, U.S. bases at Kadena, Misawa and Yokota could be knocked out with 80 medium- and short-range ballistic missiles and 350 ground-launched cruise missiles, the report says. Those bases are between 525 miles and 680 miles from China.
“Not only would U.S. bases be threatened in the event of a conflict with China but so too would U.S. deployed aircraft,” the report says.
For the past 20 years, China’s missile and naval forces have been transformed from an outdated military to “one with modern aircraft and air defenses and a large, growing arsenal of conventional ballistic and land-attack cruise missiles,” the report says.
Since 2000, for example, Chinese short-range missile forces alone increased from a brigade of up to 36 launchers to as many as 252 today, the report states.
Additionally, China now has up to 500 DH-10 land-attack cruise missiles with ranges of up to 932 miles. A second, new cruise missile, the YJ-63 also is deployed and has a range of more than 125 miles.
“In addition to increasing the number of missiles, China is also extending their range, improving their accuracy, and increasing their payload,” the report says.
China is thought to have 1,150 short-range missiles with ranges between 180 and 375 miles, and 115 medium-range missiles with ranges between 1,000 and 1,800 miles.
Additionally, China is in the “testing phase” of a maneuvering medium-range ballistic missile designed to attack U.S. aircraft carriers, the DF-21C. The report says the anti-ship ballistic missile, if deployed in southeastern China, “would provide the PLA with the ability to strike surface ships in both a Taiwan- and a South China Sea-related contingency.”
“Frequently referred to as an ‘anti-access and area-denial strategy,’ it seeks to hinder or deny enemy forces the ability to operate effectively along China’s periphery and deter third parties from intervening in a conflict between China and Taiwan,” the report says.
Richard D. Fisher Jr., a specialist on the Chinese military at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the commission report is vital for presenting the “whole truth” to Congress and the public about China’s military buildup.
“This year the China commission performed a vital service: It revealed that there are competitive U.S. assessments regarding China’s fifth-generation fighter - that some in the intelligence community strongly disagree with [Mr.] Gates’ July 2009 statement that it would not be ready until about 2025,” he said.
The report states that China’s fifth-generation fighter - which will have stealth radar masking, advanced maneuverability, long-range capabilities and advanced avionics - could be deployed by 2018.
The United States’ only current fifth-generation fighter is the F-22. Mr. Gates has capped U.S. production of the F-22 at 187 jets, favoring instead the F-35, which has been beset with production problems and cost overruns.