by DAVID AXE
A rumored anti-ship variant of China’s DF-21 ballistic missile, pictured, combined with recon satellites, is one of the major perceived threats driving U.S. naval thinking. One of the reasons the Navy gave for truncating the DDG-1000 stealth destroyer program to just three ships, was that it can’t shoot down ballistic missiles, whereas the older DDG-51 can.
The U.S. Naval Institute devoted several pages to the DF-21 in the current Proceedings magazine. The Institute even put artist Tom Freeman’s alarmist “missile-hits-aircraft-carrier” painting on the cover. Writers Andrew Erickson and David Yang call the missile “a game-changer, with profound consequences for deterrence, military operations and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.”
It is, but only if the U.S. Navy intends to attack China. The DF-21 carrier-killer, if it exists, is a defensive weapon, presumably meant to ward off the world’s most powerful, mobile attack weapon, the American aircraft carrier — plus the carriers of close U.S. allies such as India, France and the U.K.
Other nations have carrier-killing weapons. British and Australian submarines are perhaps the most potent carrier killers in the world. India has its Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile. We don’t worry about them because we don’t perceive these nations as enemies. We fear China, so much so that our military intellectual establishment spins even defensive weapons as serious threats to our interests.
Let’s be clear on this point: China has every right to defend itself, and to influence its waters and its neighbors. As the world’s third-biggest economy, highly reliant on sea trade, we must expect China to have a powerful navy and lethal naval weapons. And considering that U.S. warships currently range all over the world, at their will, while carrying a high proportion of the entire planet’s weaponry, it would be frankly surprising if China didn’t take some steps to ensure it had the means to kill attacking warships.
Tom Barnett is right: China will be, and must be, one of our closest allies in the emerging globalized world order, for only China has the resources and the will to be our partner in taming the world’s under-governed wilds. Let’s not spoil this evolving partnership with a lot of hand-wringing over a missile.
(Photo: via Air Power Australia)
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