Tuesday, November 21, 2006

China’s military buildup includes new missiles and naval weapons designed to sink U.S. aircraft carriers and deny U.S. forces access to the Asia-Pacific region, a congressional commission official said yesterday.

Daniel Blumenthal, a former Pentagon defense policy-maker and now a member of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, said China’s military is building up forces to “deny the United States the use of the commons — the sea, the air, cyber and space.”

“The Chinese have been quite successful … in the area of sea denial, meaning that if we sent a carrier to or outside the [Taiwan] Strait as we did in 1996, it would be a lot riskier and a lot costlier to the United States,” Mr. Blumenthal said at a conference held at the Heritage Foundation.

The comments followed disclosure last week that a Chinese submarine sailed undetected to within five miles of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk near Okinawa, Japan, and surfaced close enough to fire wake-homing torpedos or anti-ship cruise missiles, according to U.S. defense officials.

The Navy said in response to the surprise encounter that it is reviewing anti-submarine warfare defenses for the carrier battle group. The carrier was engaged in exercises when the Song-class submarine surfaced Oct. 26.

China’s government denied that the submarine encounter took place, but Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said Friday in Beijing that Chinese military leaders he met told him the submarine was in international waters when it was near the carrier.

Mr. Blumenthal, commenting on the release of the China commission’s latest annual report, said Chinese weapons include 10 different types of ballistic and cruise missiles and up to 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan, five different types of submarines and 15 types of new warships.

“This is a very concerted and sophisticated, diversified effort to build up a military whose goal is the United States and its ability to meet its own commitments and interests,” he said.

Beijing’s military also is experimenting with new attack concepts, including land-based attacks on ships “through multiple entry concepts” in what Mr. Blumenthal called “a very serious effort to try to basically sink a carrier or battle group.”

The commission report, while mainly focused on economic issues, included a chapter on China’s military that said China’s military buildup is closing a gap with U.S. forces. The trend shows “a window of vulnerability for the United States between 2008 and 2015” before newer U.S. weapons are fielded, the report continued.

The report revealed that China’s new DF-21C ballistic missile is being configured with a guidance system that will allow it to attack ships at sea and defeat shipborne missile defenses. The “development efforts are being pursued vigorously,” it stated.

The report stated that China’s warships and submarines could delay the arrival of U.S. Navy forces called on to defend Taiwan, but they lack integrated command and control needed for “effective joint targeting of a carrier battle group.”

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