It is time the United States developed a long-term strategy for the inevitable military competition with China. Competition does not mean conflict. It means a struggle with China for power, influence, security and for the United States, access to East Asia. China is competing with the United States so it seems reasonable that this country do the same.
The competition with China is as much military as it is economic. Beijing is developing a precision-guided ballistic missile theoretically capable of attacking U.S. aircraft carriers. China is building more new classes of submarines than the entire Western world combined. According to the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, China’s cyber and anti-access capabilities pose a clear threat to the ability of the U.S. to operate from forward military bases in East Asia. Not long ago, Chinese warships threatened a U.S. intelligence vessel conducting routine collection operations in the South China Sea, forcing this country to send a destroyer to protect our ship.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently conducted complex military operations in the South China Sea. These exercises involved coordinated attacks on “surface targets” using groups of aircraft, missile firing ships and land-launched missiles. The message is clear: China wants to dominate the waters that touch East Asia and exclude the U.S. from those same waters.
How should the U.S. respond? With its own strategy for competition. One aspect of such a strategy is to exploit enduring U.S. advantages in such areas as nuclear attack submarines, long-range, high-altitude ISR and ship-based missile defenses. We need to build more Virginia-class SSNs and Aegis/Standard missile equipped surface combatants.
The U.S. needs to develop new ties with regional states based on empowering their capabilities for individual and collaborative defense. This would include sales of advanced combat aircraft and/or air and missile defense systems to nations such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and India. The U.S. should provide the critical ISR and communications to support collaborative regional air and missile defenses. A strategy for competing with China also would involve developing or expanding military ties with countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
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