In the latest hot salvo in an intensifying US-China Cold War, China launched in August 2020 its much-feared aircraft-carrier killer missiles into the South China Sea in a clear warning to the US Navy, wrote Richard Jawad Heydarian in Asia Times.
The move underscored Beijing's growing willingness to show its military muscle, raising concerns over accidental clashes in the South China Sea. This is not the first time. China already aunched 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 late August 2020.
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, then described the spy plane overflight as provocative actions and urged the US to stop. "China's military will neither dance to the tune of the US nor allow the US to cause 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, which is the standard reply to cover those provocative actions. 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. Such grand gesture are, of course, to pacify the political establishement in Washington, while achieving nothing on the ground.
China's missile shots came at the tale of a four-region military exercises spanning the Yellow Sea, Bohai Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea.
Though militarily it is thought in many quarters that the US maintains both a qualitative and quantitative edge over China, the Chinese navy has relentlessly pursued the development of increasingly sophisticated arsenal over the past twenty years. Now, it is clear that its burgeoning armory of carrier-killer long-range missiles have significantly raised the potential cost of any American military intervention during a contingency in the Western Pacific and made the Guam and Okinawa american footprint totally obsolete.
The just-launched DF-26 dual-capable missile has a range of 4,000 kilometers. It can be deployed for both conventional and nuclear strikes against targets in the high seas. The Trump administration has cited China's missile systems as a key justification for its withdrawal from the arms control agreement with Russia, which, in a way, is a way to recognize that the Pentagone feels the heat and is now outgunned. The DF-21 missile has a 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.
All those developments were quite predictable. Alexander Sheldon-Duplaix has outlined for Asian Affairs how China, to be safe from the vagaries of the West came to the conclusion that "Si vis pacem, para bellum".