China's New Anti-Ship Missiles and U.S. Forces in Japan

China is working on the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, according to some defense analysts. Tobias Harris writes that the ASBM may be based on an existing missile that has a range of 1,800 km, and he notes that such a missile would threaten U.S. ships based in Japan.

While it may be hard to target a ship at sea, he writes, minimal effort would be needed to learn of a ship’s landing at U.S. bases in Japan. Tobias writes:

The question I have is whether the Chinese ASBM will render US naval forward deployments in Japan obsolete, in that homeporting an aircraft carrier in Yokosuka may leave it vulnerable to a crippling first strike before even leaving port. Are anti-ballistic missile deployments in Japan — both by the US military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces — reliable enough to protect US forces while in Japanese ports?

If not, hadn’t the US and Japan be having a serious discussion about the impact of China’s ASBMs on the future of US forward deployments in Japan, and with them, the future of the US-Japan alliance? Should the US consider relocating more assets from Japan to Guam to put them out of the range of ASBMs?

Of course, many in Japan are not enthusiastic about the U.S. military’s continued presence. Both advocates of Japanese military independence (not likely any time soon) and those opposed to U.S. military actions have spoken up. If this strategic environment were realigned by a new type of missile, perhaps they would be happier.

My question, however, is What are the implications for the U.S. if basing in Japan were reduced and ships in the western Pacific had to launch from bases like Guam and Hawaii? Would this strain the situation with Taiwan? Would it make it more difficult for U.S. ships to be in the neighborhood for humanitarian aid during catastrophes like the 2004 Tsunami?

As Tobias notes, U.S. ships can increase their readiness for this type of attack, but resources would be diverted from other functions.





4 responses to “China's New Anti-Ship Missiles and U.S. Forces in Japan”

  1. Sam Avatar


    Tobias was responding to a post I wrote on The Interpreter. In a subsequent post, I address the question you ask here:'s-carrier-killers.aspx

    Congratulations on a fine blog.

  2. Philip Wong Avatar
    Philip Wong

    The US cannot expect China to be defenceless all the time. A time will come when the Chinese will have a mad with the US.Granted the US will prevail. The Chinese aint going to ignite ww3. It’s the Us with its superior military power that will do so. The PLa will only attack if the US launches attack on Chinese soil. Just as US soil is sacred so is Chinese territory. There are no two ways about this.
    In time to come US warships will be extremely vulnerable to PLA counter measures. The Chinese aint looking for a fight.So if the US upgrades its weaponry expect the Chinese to so .
    This is China of the 21 st century not the China of the opium war where corruption and mis rule caused the Chinese to be humiliated by the western powers.

  3. Hwang Sze Kwang Avatar
    Hwang Sze Kwang

    The US can have weaponry that can reach any part of the world,including China,in 30 minutes. The PLA are also upgrading and eventually will have weapons that can cover any part of the US.
    So if the US tries to pull its ships out of range,it doesnt matter. The Chinese will able attack at source any attack from Guam/Conus.
    For every action there is a reaction. The consequences of war between the US and China are too horrendous to envisage.The US may be able to destroy China at unacceptable cost which will serve as a deterrent and it will get worse as China grows stronger. No amount of damage limitation can stop the Chinese from acquiring a
    destructive capability.

  4. […] alongside the military equipment of host countries. If the Chinese military wants to inflict a crippling first strike on U.S. Navy surface combatants in port, it will risk destroying the equipment and killing the […]

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