In the latest hot salvo in an intensifying USA-China conflict, China launched its much-feared “aircraft-carrier killer” missiles into the South China Sea in a clear warning to the US Navy.
The incident underscored Beijing’s growing willingness to flex its military muscle and even risk confrontation with the USA in its adjacent waters, raising concerns over accidental clashes and an armed escalation in the high seas.
China launched a DF-21D missile from the eastern province of Zhejiang and a DF-26B missile from the northwestern province of Qinghai while People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces conducted naval drills off the coast of Guangdong and Hainan Island this week.
The provocative move came only a day after China accused a US U-2 spy plane of illegally entering a “no-fly zone” during naval drills it held in the far north Bohai Sea.
Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, described the spy plane overflight as “provocative actions” and urged the USA to stop.
China’s military will neither dance to the tune of the US regime nor allow the USA to cause more trouble, defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Thursday.
The Pentagon confirmed the U-2 spy plane overflight, saying it was within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights.
The missile launches, meanwhile, came on the heels of a US announcement to blacklist 24 Chinese companies and target individuals it said are part of construction and military actions in the South China Sea, its first imposition of sanctions over the disputed seas.
China’s provocative missile shots came amid an unprecedented near-simultaneous four-region military exercises spanning the Yellow Sea, Bohai Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea.
Though militarily the US maintains both a qualitative and quantitative edge over China, the Asian powerhouse has pursued a focused and increasingly sophisticated “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) asymmetric warfare strategy in its nearby waters.
At the same time, the USA is doubling down on its commitment to maintain freedom of navigation in the waters. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper averred that the USA won’t cede an inch in the Pacific in what reports characterized as a thinly veiled swipe at China.
The just-launched DF-26 dual-capable missile, which has a range of 4,000 kilometers, can be deployed for both conventional and nuclear strikes against targets in the high seas.
The lethal weapon system is actually banned under the recently-nixed USA-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The Trump administration has cited China’s missile systems as a key justification for its withdrawal from the arms control agreement with Russia.
The DF-21 missile, meanwhile, has a more medium-range of around 1,800 kilometers while the DF-21D variant has been dubbed by Chinese state media as the world’s pioneering anti-ship ballistic missile.
Buoyed by a rapidly expanding naval force, the PLA is deploying an integrated body of missile defense systems and “carrier-killer” missiles across its coastal regions as part of a hybrid strategy of deterrence against US forces.
If the US regime had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” warned a 2018 bipartisan experts report from the National Defense Strategy Commission.
Sources within China’s security establishment have warned that the latest “carrier killer” missile launches aim at sharpening the country’s ability to deter American assistance to its allies while potentially diminishing external powers’ access to the South China Sea.
“This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea,” the Chinese source told the South China Morning Post.
Another China military expert, Song Zhongping, made it clear that the missile launches are part of Beijing’s attempt to “showcase its military strength to let Washington know that even US aircraft carriers cannot flex their full muscle near China’s coast.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point WW III News 2020.