PACOM Addresses Growing Chinese ICBM Program

Adm. Locklear admits friction exists with the Chinese military while acknowledging a report that sites an expanding ICBM program that threatens U.S. soil.

The Commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet addressed a recent report Thursday at the Pentagon that outlines a growing Chinese intercontinental ballistic threat that estimates that the Chinese could have over 100 ICBMs able to reach the U.S. in 15 years.

The report in question, called the 2013 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Assessment from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, called China’s ballistic missile development program the “most active and diverse” in the world.

“China has the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world. It is developing and testing offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses. The Chinese ballistic missile force is expanding in both size and types of missiles,” the report stated.

The report also specifies that the Chinese military continues to develop and deploy large numbers of conventionally armed short and medium range ballistic missiles while developing a new submarine launched ballistic missile, the JL-2.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, or PACOM, tried to emphasize what he called substantial “progress” in the U.S. to Chinese military-to-military relationship, but he acknowledged issues the U.S. military is facing with the Chinese in the Pacific.

“There is no need or intention for us to have a military containment strategy with China. We are too interconnected in too many ways,” Locklear told reporters July 11 at the Pentagon.

The intelligence report mentioned Anti-Access/Area-Denial concerns and also explains that the Chinese military uses nuclear armed ballistic missiles for regional nuclear deterrence. In addition, the NASIC report says China is acquiring new conventionally armed medium range ballistic missiles to conduct precision strikes called CSS-5 MRBMs.

“These systems are likely intended to hold at risk or strike logistics nodes, regional military bases including airfields and ports and naval assets,” the report states.

Locklear has been to Beijing and met with his Chinese counterparts. He said there is ongoing dialogue between the two militaries regarding what he called “the rules of the road.”

When asked if China’s military expansion was a threat to the U.S., Locklear seemed to emphasize the importance of maintaining a watchful eye regarding Chinese intentions — but explained Chinese military and economic growth as an “opportunity.”

“I look at them as an opportunity. If that opportunity is not realized, as with any foreign military, that opportunity could potentially become a threat — but I certainly view it and approach it as an opportunity. It is a natural thing for them, as their global economic power grows, for them to have security interests beyond their backyard,” Locklear told reporters.

In fact, Locklear mentioned the U.S. military and China’s People’s Liberation Army recently completed humanitarian disaster relief exercises hosted by Brunei this past month.

“Participants from a total of 18 nations exercised multilateral responses to a training scenario involving a post-tropical revolving storm typhoon rescue, survey, recovery and disaster relief in the vicinity of the District of Temburong, as well as other locations in Bandar Seri Begawan, Muara Naval Base and Rimba Air Force Base,” said Lt. Anthony Falvo, Pacific fleet spokesman.

Locklear also mentioned anticipated Chinese participation in the upcoming U.S.-led multi-national exercises called Rim of the Pacific, slated for the summer of 2014.

“This is a big step for the Chinese Navy. They are excited about coming and participating,” Locklear explained.

In addition, the USS Shiloh, a guided missile cruiser, just completed a port visit in Zhanjiang, China for a four day stay, he added.

Chinese ships will be docking for visits at U.S. Navy ports in the near future, Locklear said.

Unlike his reaction to Chinese expansion, Locklear was less positive when asked about the likelihood of continued North Korean provocations.

“They have a cycle of provocation where they institute a provocation against South Korea, the region or the U.S. and raise the level of rhetoric to bring you to a dialogue that allows them to stay in power and allows them to try to extract some kind of deal,” Locklear explained.

In particular, Locklear was asked about North Korea’s recent unveiling of a new road-mobile Hwasong-13 ICMB and continued development of its Taepo Dong-2 missile, both of which were cited specifically in the NASIC intelligence report.

“North Korea has an ambitious ballistic missile development program and has exported missiles and missile technology to other countries, including Iran and Pakistan. North Korea has also admitted its possession of nuclear weapons. An intermediate-range ballistic missile and a new solid propellant short-range ballistic missile are also being developed,” the report says.