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Nov. 30, 2023
Notes from the Pentagon

General: U.S. to deploy land-based Tomahawks in Asia

By Bill Gertz
The commander of Army forces in the Indo-Pacific region recently announced that the Army will soon deploy long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles on ground launchers in the region.

Army Gen. Charles Flynn said the intermediate-range cruise missiles have been tested and will be stationed at undisclosed locations in the coming months.

The deployment is part of a larger regional defense buildup aimed at deterring China from carrying out a military assault on Taiwan.

“We have tested them and we have a battery or two of them today,” Gen. Flynn said at a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “In [20]24, we intend to deploy that system in your region. I’m not going to say where and when. But I will just say that we will deploy them.”

The ground-based Tomahawks are terrain-following, precision-guided missiles with a range of up to 1,500 miles.

Asked if the missiles would be placed on U.S. soil, Gen. Flynn declined to say.

“I’m going to deploy them into the region, not on the West Coast,” he said at the Halifax International Security Forum.

Tomahawks on Guam would be unable to reach China‘s Fujian or Guangdong provinces, where most of the Chinese military forces threatening Taiwan are. Possible deployment sites could be in Okinawa, Japan, the Philippines or Taiwan.

The Tomahawk, first deployed in 1983, is one of the military’s premier long-range strike weapons and was showcased in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In that conflict, 288 Tomahawks were fired, 12 from submarines and 276 from surface ships, against targets in Iraq. Now the weapon is central to deterring China and shifting the emphasis from defensive missiles in the region to offensive strike weapons.

Chinese state media warned this week that the Tomahawk deployment would amount to a provocative interference by the U.S. in “the Taiwan question,” and predicted the move would be opposed by regional states.

The Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times said placing Tomahawks on China‘s doorstep is a sign the United States is preparing for a conflict with China, and warned it could set off an emergency similar to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when Moscow placed medium-range missiles in Cuba near the U.S. mainland.

As disclosed in this space in August, purchases of Tomahawk missiles by Japan and Australia are part of the new strategy. Canberra announced plans that month to buy more than 200 Tomahawks, and Tokyo earlier announced it will purchase 400 Tomahawks. Both are assumed to be sea-based missiles.

Defense analysts say the missile is one of the weapons most feared by China. In particular, four converted Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines that have been turned into cruise missile shooters are said to be a major worry for the Chinese military.

The low-altitude missiles are difficult to counter with air defenses and travel at up to 567 miles per hour. Each of the conventionally armed submarines deployed in waters near China could launch up to 154 Tomahawks, or 616 in total if all four subs were deployed.

The most modern version of the Tomahawk is equipped with advanced navigation and communication gear that can target moving ships at sea. It also has an advanced warhead for striking diverse land targets, according to the manufacturer, Raytheon.

Ground-based Tomahawks were banned from deployment in ground-based mobile launchers under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The United States withdrew from the treaty in 2019 after it said Russia had violated the agreement by deploying a nuclear long-range cruise missile NATO calls the SSC-8. That missile has a range of up to 1,800 miles.

Gen. Flynn said the Army also plans to deploy SM-6 anti-aircraft and anti-missile interceptors. The SM-6 can also be used as an anti-ship missile with a range of up to 150 miles.

Another new missile slated for deployment to Asia, Gen. Flynn said, is the Army’s new Precision Strike Missile, a surface-to-surface weapon that when operational will have a range of up to 310 miles.

The four-star general, who plays a leading role in connecting with allied and partner military leaders in the Asia-Pacific region, said more states in the area are seeking to conduct military exercises with U.S. forces as a way to bolster defenses against an increasingly aggressive China.

Chinese military forces are speeding up both in numbers and capabilities.

The People’s Liberation Army today is much more advanced than in 2014 or 2018, he said.

“So that trajectory that they’re on is a dangerous one for the region, and, candidly, it’s a dangerous moment for the world,” he said.

On Taiwan, Gen. Flynn said Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is chairman of the Central Military Commission, replaced several senior generals.

Mr. Xi “is essentially assessing the military proficiency of his force to actually conduct a cross-strait invasion,” he said.

“That is a highly, highly complex operation, not to be taken lightly. It’s going to require all of their forces and it’s going to require a significant amount of expertise, precision, timing, sustainment.”

China continues harassing U.S. officials
China‘s security authorities are continuing to target Americans, including U.S. government officials traveling to China on official business and holding diplomatic passports.

One recent example took place several weeks ago in the city of Xuzhou, in east central China.

Two Chinese police officers showed up at midnight at the hotel room of a visiting American official, demanding to know why the official was in China. The official explained he was traveling on official business and demanded to know why the police woke him.

“I told them to stop harassing me,” the official said, adding that the hotel front desk had his identification and that there should be no harassment since he is traveling on a diplomatic passport.

The police were referred to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for further information. Hotel staff claimed they were unable to stop the intrusion because of Chinese police rules. The late-night police contact appeared to be an effort at sexual entrapment, a tactic used in the past by the Chinese intelligence service to blackmail U.S. diplomats.

Harassment of diplomats has been a problem for Americans under China‘s recently stepped-up security campaign.

The issue of harassment of Americans in China was raised by President Biden in his meeting earlier this month in California with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to a senior administration official who was present at the talks.

A State Department security report produced in September warned Americans to reconsider travel to China based on “arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions.”

“The Chinese government consistently targets Westerners with arbitrary detentions and exit bans as a form of hostage diplomacy during times of geopolitical tension,” the report said.

Threats include pervasive and intrusive technical surveillance and monitoring, restrictions on free expression, including physical attacks, the report said. The report noted that on some occasions, State Department employees had even been “harassed or assaulted.”

“U.S. citizens traveling or residing in China may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime,” the report said. “Authorities may subject individuals including U.S. citizens to prolonged interrogations and extended detention without due process of law.”

Xi warns party of political explosion
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in a major speech this month of growing risks and dangers for the Chinese Communist Party in its ideological confrontation with the West.

“Now, various risks and dangers are highly correlated, strongly linked, and rapidly transmitted,” Mr. Xi said in a speech to hundreds of senior officials at an internal meeting Feb. 7. “A little carelessness can cause a butterfly effect. Small risks will become big risks; risks will become general risks; and economic and social risks will become political risks.”

Party officials were urged to “identify risks early, act quickly, take command at the front, and make immediate judgments as soon as they arise.”

“Do not let small things be delayed to become big things, and big things be delayed until they explode,” Mr. Xi said.

The speech was first reported by the Sinoinsider newsletter, which closely monitors developments in China.

Mr. Xi began warning of political dangers facing the ruling Communist Party several times since coming to power in 2012. By 2018, he voiced concerns about worsening relations with Washington amid a trade war with the Trump administration.

The decade-long warnings are indications Mr. Xi’s policies of seeking stability and a consolidation of power are not working, Sinoinsider stated in its analysis of the speech.

“If anything, it is becoming increasingly observable that Xi’s ‘solution’ to defusing risks and preserving the regime (i.e., intense power centralization, strengthening of the national security state, and elevating Xi and the Party‘s position above all) are accelerating the regime’s headlong dash towards disaster and failure,” the newsletter stated.

The current policy of power consolidation and greater Communist Party controls are leading to increasing social tensions and political risks. Attempts by Mr. Xi to strengthen Party control over the financial sector are driving away foreign capital and sparking factional struggles.

Sinoinsider predicts the problems will not be easily solved: “Unless Xi abandons the CCP and moves China towards genuine reforms, he will almost certainly go down with the communist regime that he is currently striving hard to save,” the newsletter said.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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