- - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Three times in April the Obama administration allowed the Pentagon to issue uncharacteristically expansive and blunt warnings over China’s growing threat. However welcome, this trend is late in forming and must now be followed by more vigorous action to ensure China remains deterred.

On April 9, the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence released a report on China’s navy that was not only full of details, but also charts and illustrations, accompanied by two videos explaining China’s military expansion in the Western Pacific. It was the first U.S. government report on China’s military build-up that approached the usefulness of the Reagan administration’s famous Soviet Military Power series. This is significant as both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations resisted as too provocative an annual Pentagon report to the Congress on China’s military that cast China as a “Cold War” level challenge.

However, it is becoming clearer that barring corrective actions by Washington, China’s threat could grow into a global challenge to American interests, justifying an annual China Military Power publication to warn U.S. policymakers. The Office of Naval Intelligence report details that China’s navy and coast guard are building about 60 ships a year. The U.S. produces 10 to 15. China eventually will have a large fleet equipped with carriers, nuclear attack submarines and amphibious ships to project power in defense of ruling Communist Party interests.

China’s first priority remains the conquest of democratic Taiwan, but its growing navy will also be used to enforce its expansive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. In the latter, China is literally turning seven coral reefs into large island bases, three of which will be equipped with airfields and combat aircraft. When complete, China will be able to exert control over sea-lanes that transport 40 percent of the world’s commerce, and threaten U.S. ally, the Philippines.

In addition, China’s seeks to control the South China Sea to better defend its growing fleet of nuclear missile submarines. On April 15, Pacific Command Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear revealed new intelligence estimates that China will build up to eight of its new Type 094 nuclear missile submarines. These will carry at least 96 JL-2 missiles that eventually could be armed with multiple warheads. Third-generation Type 096 subs with more powerful JL-3 missiles are expected by the early 2020s.

A third Pentagon warning was issued on April 26 via the CBS program “60 Minutes,” in which leaders of the U.S. Air Force Space Command detailed China’s ability to threaten U.S. Global Positioning Satellites, which help manage bank ATM machines, gas pumps and cellphone towers. What “60 Minutes” did not cover is that China is developing both Earth- and space-based combat systems to dominate Low Earth Orbit, and is now talking with Russia about establishing early moon bases that may also be used for military advantage.

As the Soviet Military Power series promoted bipartisan policies that won the Cold War, there is now a requirement for a China Military Power report, translated in multiple languages, to inform U.S. and allied policymakers about China’s rapidly expanding threat. Just as important, though, as Washington proceeds with strategies intended to deter China’s growing threat in Asia, it must also prepare to counter China’s global military projection.

First, the Obama administration’s rush to reduce U.S. nuclear capability must be reversed; the United States should not only revitalize its nuclear infrastructure and build up its numbers of nuclear missiles and warheads, it must also rebuild its tactical nuclear forces. Plans to build about 100 new strategic bombers should be doubled. Like China, the United States must quickly develop offensive and defensive military capabilities for space.

At sea, continued U.S. naval superiority will require 400 or more combat ships, to include larger numbers of nuclear submarines, more carriers and amphibious projection ships, and a new class of heavily armed and affordable frigates. We need to re-establish a capability to permanently deploy at least one Carrier Strike Group to the Mediterranean as well as the capability to deploy one to the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea.

New long-range, precision-guided attack missiles should be developed for the Navy, Air Force and Army. We must also have the capability to counter China’s vast array of ballistic and anti-ship missiles, including maneuvering warheads. Fortunately, an algorithm and software application has been developed that can be used to immediately upgrade current U.S. missile interceptors.

As China is building new bases in the South China Sea, the United States should invest in new bases in South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Washington must end its dithering and help Taiwan obtain new submarines and combat aircraft. It should also quickly offer new combat capabilities to the Philippines.

Retired Adm. James A. Lyons is a former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Richard D. Fisher Jr. is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

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