US intelligence agencies have confirmed that China is developing a new nuclear-capable missile designed to keep US forces from intervening in any Asian conflict, a new report warns.
“While these missiles may not be directly aimed at Taiwan, they will be aimed at American forces in the Western Pacific that could be tasked to come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of an attack or an invasion from China,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, told the Taipei Times.
He said that the intermediate range missile should be of “deep concern” to Taiwan.
Called the Dongfeng-26C (DF-26C), the missile is said to have a range of at least 3,540km and could reach a major US base in Guam, where thousands of US Marines are being moved as part of Washington’s pivot toward Asia.
This may explain why Washington is to install its newest anti-missile system — the Theater High Altitude Area Defense — in Guam later this year.
“When America’s ability to deter China is diminished by new Chinese weapons, that also brings closer the day when Japan, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam and even Taiwan are forced to decide whether to build their own, more powerful deterrent,” Fisher said.
“For some this may mean deciding to build nuclear weapons. For others, non-nuclear systems like ballistic and cruise missiles may do. Either way, stability will be less assured and the people of China will have many more weapons aimed at them,” he said.
A new study on China’s air and space-based combat capabilities over the near seas was released this week by the US Naval War College.
“China’s progressively more potent naval platforms, aircraft and missiles are increasingly capable of holding US Navy platforms and their supporting assets at risk in the near seas and their approaches,” said Andrew Erickson, an associate professor in the college’s strategic research department.
It may also be significant that the Pentagon announced last month that it was deploying the USS Topeka — a fourth nuclear attack submarine — to Guam.
The DF-26C may be capable of firing nuclear or conventional warheads and even maneuverable anti-ship and hypersonic warheads.
News of the DF-26C comes from national security specialist Bill Gertz, writing in the online newspaper the Washington Free Beacon on Monday.
“It was the first official confirmation of China’s new IRBM [intermediate-range ballistic missile], which officials believe is part of the People’s Liberation Army military buildup aimed at controlling the Asia-Pacific waters and preventing the US military entry to the two island chains along China’s coasts,” Gertz wrote.
He said that few details are available about the new missile.
According to Gertz, the new missile may use solid fuel and be built on a chassis that can be driven along roads. This means that it could be hidden in underground bunkers and fired on short notice.
“It would be very difficult to counter in a conflict,” Gertz said.
Pentagon sources refused to discuss the DF-26C with the Taipei Times on Tuesday.