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Chinese Missiles Could Close U.S. Bases in Attack, Report Says

The Chinese military’s non-nuclear missiles have “the capability to attack” and close down five of six major U.S. Air Force bases in South Korea and Japan, an unpublished government report says.

China’s improved inventory of short- and medium-range missiles provides a “dramatic increase” in its ability to “inhibit” U.S. military operations in the western Pacific, according to excerpts from the draft of the 2010 annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission scheduled for release on Nov. 17.

China’s current force “may be sufficient” to destroy runways, parked aircraft, fuel and maintenance facilities at Osan and Kunsan air bases in South Korea, and Kadena, Misawa and Yokota bases in Japan, the report says. The facilities are within 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) of China.

An upgraded missile arsenal, including a 30 percent increase in cruise missiles since last year, “poses a significant challenge to U.S. forces operating in the region,” the report says. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June called China’s improved missile arsenal “a real concern” that also threatens U.S. aircraft carriers.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The 12-member bipartisan commission was created by Congress in 2000 to monitor the U.S. national security implications of China’s economic and military rise and to report annually to lawmakers with recommendations for U.S. action.

Spending on Fortifications

The commission’s 2010 report says Congress should evaluate Pentagon spending to fortify bases from Chinese attack, including missile defenses, early warning systems, runway repairs and hardening buildings and hangars.

Increased military spending could benefit companies that make sea-based missile defense and electronic warfare systems, such as Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp., Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co., and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp., said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

Also standing to gain are ship and submarine makers Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics Corp., based in Falls Church, Virginia, said James McAleese, a consultant to defense companies.

The report also said U.S. Pacific commanders, as part of their annual budget statements, should report on the “adequacy of the U.S. military’s capability to withstand Chinese air and missile assault on regional bases” as well as steps being taken to strengthen U.S. defenses.

More Explicit Warning

The commission’s conclusions are “certainly much stronger” and “much more explicit” than related findings in the Pentagon’s own annual report on Chinese military developments, said Mark Stokes, an analyst for the non-profit Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, Virginia, that studies Asia security issues.

The commission’s report says a decade of improvements in ballistic missiles and in advanced aircraft carrying precision- guided weapons “have greatly improved China’s ability to carry out” a strategy designed to hinder or prevent the U.S. from operating in the region or from aiding Taiwan in a conflict.

Separately, the commission warns that “the future deployment” of China’s new anti-ship ballistic missile “could seriously interfere” with U.S. regional access.

China “appears to be in the final stage of developing” the missile capable of targeting large ships at sea such as aircraft carriers,’’ the report says.

The missile, with a range of almost 900 miles, would be fired from mobile, land-based launchers and is “specifically designed to defeat U.S. carrier strike groups,” the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence has reported.

Higher Profile

The Pentagon places a “high priority” on responding to the increased threat to U.S. bases and vessels and it “is soon to gain a much higher profile as a critical public policy challenge,” said Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a nonpartisan research group based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Some of that higher profile may come from Republican lawmakers, after their party takes control of the U.S. House in January, who may advocate a tougher approach toward China.

“We have to look at the totality” of China’s efforts, said Representative Randy Forbes of Virginia, the top Republican on the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee.

When lawmakers focus on emerging challenges in areas from cyber warfare to aircraft carriers to missiles, they’ll say, “we better be changing our readiness capability,” said Forbes, co-founder of the Congressional China Caucus.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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