• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Chinese Want U.S. to Stop Playing Defense While They Improve Their Offense

    Last week, Chinese General Zhu Chenghu stated that China “will have to modernize its nuclear arsenal” as U.S. missile defense “may reduce the credibility of [China’s] nuclear deterrence.” Even if the statements reflected reality, it should encourage the U.S. to strengthen its defenses.

    U.S. missile defenses are still woefully inadequate to defend against the Chinese missile arsenal. The U.S. systems are meant to intercept the far more simple missiles of rogue nations—mainly North Korea and Iran, neither of which has yet demonstrated a truly intercontinental-range ballistic missile, much less one equipped with penetration aids or multiple warheads.

    Beijing did not recently come to the conclusion that, due to U.S. missile defense plans, it must build up its nuclear arsenal. China maintains a nuclear force that can reach most of the world and has been modernizing its force at a steady pace for at least a decade. China likely has 1,600–1,800 nuclear warheads. Moreover, General Zhu himself indicated in 2005 that China might use nuclear weapons in response to conventional attacks against Chinese territory or even Chinese military forces, such as aircraft or a warship.

    China has also been working very hard on its missile program, which could be used to deliver its nuclear weapons. It is willing to do this even at the price of international outrage, as proved by the successful ASAT test in 2007.

    In December 11, 2009, Beijing revealed it had spent the last 25 years working on a massive 3,000-mile underground tunnel system. This system could potentially be used to house (and hide) nuclear and missile forces.

    But why would the general oppose missile defense in Asia and use U.S. missile defense as a pretext for building up the Chinese nuclear arsenal? Well, it’s working for Russia.

    Chinese state-owned media has pointed to Russia’s objections over U.S. missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe as behavior worth emulating. Russia leverages objections to missile defense to get concessions out of the U.S. Demonstrating President Obama’s willingness to concede U.S. missile defenses, the President was caught by an open microphone with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in which President Obama said he’d have more “flexibility” after the November presidential election on missile defense. Perhaps the Chinese also want to take advantage of President Obama’s “flexibility” if he wins another term.

    But even if China is now feeling threatened by U.S. military systems, and therefore believes there is a need to counter them by building up offensive weapons, this should reinforce the need for U.S. defenses.

    The missile defenses currently deployed and the ones the U.S. is planning to deploy are purely defensive in nature and designed to protect the U.S. and its allies, including South Korea and Japan, from weapons that have already been launched from hostile countries. To fail to build these defenses is to purposefully leave Americans and our allies totally vulnerable to incoming—and possibly nuclear-armed—ballistic missiles. Even if China doesn’t have the intent to pose this threat to the U.S. or our allies in Asia, North Korea certainly does.

    The U.S. should defend against rogue states even if China would rather we didn’t. Moreover, if China is determined for its nuclear weapons to have a free ride to American military bases and cities, or those of our allies—which by all accounts they do—it would be foolhardy for U.S. policymakers to do anything but build stronger and more robust defenses.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to Chinese Want U.S. to Stop Playing Defense While They Improve Their Offense

    1. DF-41 says:

      China now has the capabilities to wipe the US off the map regardless of missile defenses. No amount of advanced missile defenses can save the US from total annihilation if they cross the red line with china.

      China will use preemptive strikes to take out any missile defenses.

      China ain't Iraq or Afghanistan, you mess with china, expect to get punched back right between the eyes!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.