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HONG KONG.- As Washington and Beijing discuss the coronavirus pandemic, a long-term dispute between the two Pacific powers reaches a turning point, as the United States began to deploy new weapons and strategies to close the great distance that It separates it from China in terms of its missile power.
In recent decades, the United States has remained largely passive as China greatly expanded its firepower. Now, having broken free from the limitations of a Cold War-era arms control treaty, the Donald Trump government is planning to deploy long-range ground-launch cruise missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Pentagon intends to arm its Marines with versions of the Tomahawk cruise missile, now carried by American warships, according to White House budget requests for 2021 and testimony in Congress in March. of high American military commanders. In addition, it is accelerating deliveries of its first long-range anti-ship shells in decades.
Speaking to Reuters on the latest steps by the United States, Beijing urged Washington to “be cautious in words and deeds” and “to stop moving chess pieces in the region” and “to stop tightening its military muscles around China”.
The movements of the United States are aimed at countering China’s overwhelming advantage in cruise and ballistic missiles on the ground. The Pentagon also aims to reduce China’s advantage in what strategists call the “war of scope.”
The People’s Liberation Army (EPL), the Chinese army, has amassed a huge force of missiles that mostly outnumber those of the United States and its regional allies, according to senior US commanders and strategic advisers to the Pentagon, who warned that China has a clear advantage in these weapons.
In a radical change of tactics, the Marines (Marines) will join forces with the United States Navy to attack enemy warships. Small, mobile units of the Marines armed with missiles will become ship killers.
In eventual conflict, these units will disperse at key points in the Western Pacific and along the so-called first chain of islands – which runs from the Japanese archipelago, through Taiwan, the Philippines, and to Borneo, encircling the coastal seas of China – said the commanders.
Senior US military officials explained the new tactics to Congress in March at a series of budget hearings.
The commander of the United States Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, told the Senate Armed Services Commission on March 5 that small units of Marines armed with precision missiles could assist the United States Navy in obtaining the control of the seas , particularly in the Western Pacific.
“The Tomahawk missile is one of the tools that is going to allow us to do it,” he said.
The Tomahawk – which first gained fame during the 1991 Gulf War – has been carried on American warships and used to attack ground targets in recent decades. The Marines could test the cruise missile in 2022, with the goal of putting it into operation the following year, senior Pentagon commanders said.
At first, a relatively small number of ground cruise missiles will not change the balance of power. But the change would send a strong political signal that Washington is preparing to compete with China’s huge arsenal, according to top strategists in the United States and other Western countries.
In the long term, increased numbers of these weapons combined with similar Japanese and Taiwanese missiles would pose a serious threat to Chinese forces, they say. The greatest immediate threat to the People’s Liberation Army comes from the new long-range anti-ship missiles now in operation on attack planes from the United States Navy and Air Force.
“Americans are recovering steadily, ” said Ross Babbage, a former Australian government defense official and now a nonresident academic at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington security research group.
“By 2024 or 2025 there is a serious risk for the People’s Liberation Army that its military developments will become obsolete,” he added.
A Chinese military spokesman, Colonel Major Wu Qian, warned last October that Beijing “would not stand idly by” if Washington deployed long-range ground missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the United States of sticking “to its Cold War mentality” and of “constantly increasing military deployment” in the region.
“Recently, the United States has worsened, intensifying its search for the so-called ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ that seeks to deploy new weapons, including ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, in the Asia-Pacific region,” the ministry said in a statement to the Reuters agency. “China strongly opposes that.”
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said he would not comment on statements by the Chinese government or the PLA.
Source: La Nacion