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Harris: PACOM Needs More Subs, Long-Range Missiles To Counter Chinese Threats

Airstrip construction on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea is pictured in this April 2, 2015.

Airstrip construction on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea is pictured in this April 2, 2015.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — China’s recent actions to militarize the South China Sea have changed the operational landscape, and the U.S. Pacific Command needs more attack submarines and long-range surface missiles to keep up with the evolving threat, PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

China’s 10,000-foot runway in the Spratly Islands, as well as the addition of surface-to-air missiles and high-frequency radar systems on the islands over the past week, are pushing regional partners closer to the U.S. military but also forcing PACOM to look at addressing the region differently.

“I think China’s… surface-to-air missiles, on Woody Island; its radars, new radars on Cuarteron Reef over here; the runway, the 10,000-foot runway… on Fiery Cross Reef and other places; these are actions that are changing, in my opinion, the operational landscape in the South China Sea,” Harris told the senators.
“The DF-21 (ballistic missile), which they have, and the DF-26, which they are developing, could pose a threat to our carriers. I think, though, our carriers are resilient and we have the capability to do what has to be done”

To protect the aircraft carriers and maintain stability in the region despite Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, Harris said he needs more submarines, more long-range weapons, and more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

“I asked for increased surface-to-surface weapons,” he said of his budget talks with the Navy and Pentagon.
“When I started flying P-3s back in the late 70s we had the Harpoon missile, and that’s the same missile we have today. And we need to have increased lethality and reach and speed that I talked about before, and I’m grateful that the service has responded to that request and in the FY17 budget there are increased funding for programs to increase lethality for surface-to-surface missiles.”

Harris mentioned the Standard Missile-6 surface-to-surface mode and the Long-Range Anti-Surface Missile (LRASM) as capabilities the Navy needs to bring online quickly. He also said the rate of buys of the F-35 should be increased, and the PACOM area of operations needs more submarines.

He added that more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and faster delivery to the fleet, would help as well. With a vast area to cover and a limited number of ships and bases to operate from, “if we don’t have presence then you better have reach, and that reach comes from submarines and aircraft and the like,” Harris said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said the Navy told her the service can only meet about 62 percent of combatant commander requests for attack submarines, and Harris said PACOM sees a comparable shortfall.

“The Pacific is the principle space where submarines are the most important warfighting capability we have. As far as Virginia-class submarines, it’s the best thing we have,” Harris said.
“As I mentioned before, we have a shortage in submarines. My submarine requirement is not met in PACOM, and I’m just one of many [combatant commanders] that will tell you that. But that’s our principle asymmetric advantage over China and any other adversary, and I think we have to keep after it.”

Also during the hearing, Harris addressed the ongoing debate regarding adding a second forward-deployed aircraft carrier to the region, saying that, in addition to the anti-ship missile threat from China to be aware of, “there are some problems with that in terms of political pieces with Japan, costs, all that.”

Still, “I believe that as a [combatant commander] I want as much capability as close to the fight as I can,” Harris added.

Despite Harris’s assurances that PACOM is managing the evolving Chinese threat, committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for more action to counter China’s increasingly militant acts.

“Over the past several years, China has acted less like a ‘responsible stakeholder’ of the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region and more like a bully. China’s increasingly assertive pattern of behavior calls into serious question whether China’s rise will in fact be peaceful. Despite U.S. efforts to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, U.S. policy has failed to adapt to the scale and velocity of the challenge we face,” McCain said.
“For example, the Administration has insisted that China must cease its ‘reclamation, construction, and militarization’ in the South China Sea and that it will ‘fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.’ But after more than a year of this rhetoric, China’s reclamation, infrastructure construction, and militarization have all continued. Last week we saw press reports that China had deployed the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands. And yesterday, satellite photos made available not by the United States Government, but by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, appear to show a high-frequency (possibly over-the-horizon) radar on reclaimed land on Cuarteron Reef in the Spratly Islands. If true, this deployment would represent a blatant violation of Xi Jinping’s September 2015 commitment to President Obama in the Rose Garden that China did ‘not intend to pursue militarization.’”

  • Van Vong

    Really?

  • 2star

    For China as a sovereignty nation, she has every rights to install radar and install missiles on her islands when she felt her islands were being frequently threatened by another superpower ( USA). On numerous occasions, US war planes and warships were seen travelling very close to the 12 miles zone and at times it did crossed into the 12 miles zone. If it had been a vice verse incident, any war planes or warships did entered US 12 miles zone … these ships or planes will be shot down by the US forces…. no doubt about it.

    If USA did not meddled with these Chinese’s islands, China would not had installed missiles or radar on these islands …. if anyone wants to complaint against China, you need to blame the US military for the numerous intrusions /violations on China’s air & water space.

    If US wants China to stop installing missiles or radar at those islands, USA need to make an international treaty or a pledge stating that there shall be no more violation against the Chinese boundary. On top of that, the Pentagon must make a public apology to China for her past violations on china’s boundary.

    A responsible country is one who dare to admit her mistake and has the will to apologize.

    • China does not belong in South East Asia and China does not have sovereignty over those islands, they are in dispute and questionable. Placing weapons on disputable islands are an act of aggression.

      Don’t forget China claim sovereignty over Tibet, East Turkistan, Inner Mongolia, and Manchukuo are also disputable and highly questionable base on China history events.

      • 2star

        As long as USA apologize to China …. everything will be fine.

        • publius_maximus_III

          As long as typhoons are around, no need to apologize, Gemini.

          • 2star

            Typhoons …. yes, exactly, that is what China’s mandate of building relief structures and light houses on those islands … mainly to receive any distress ships ( of any nationalities) if they ever encounter typhoons.

            Not only did China built relief structures, China did built military ports and air lanes … for docking of navy ships and planes … the main purpose is to drive away those sea pirates. Too many hijacking of cargo ships in the past and now with the current China newly developed islands … the numbers of hijacking had dropped drastically.

        • incredulous1

          What do we have to apologize to you for? Saving you from Japan in WWII? Perhaps next time you attack a neighbor, we should allow the next Treaty of Shimonoseki to prevail against you. AND, you cannot be serious about typhoon relief given your record. You are clearly scrambling for any shred of legitimacy you can find, which only draws attention to your long range scheme of land grabbing.

          • 2star

            You attacked Japan because you are afraid the Japanese will be taking over Asia because if Japan had won the war, in the later years, Japan economy and military will be stronger than US.

            Before the WW2, USA was in China doing slave trading and stealing artifacts and was one of the 8 invaders of China … and when the Japanese grew strong, she wanted to be the sole invader of China …. this erk the American … American came back to bomb the Japanese and it was a geo political war … not a humanitarian war to help the Chinese.

        • muzzleloader

          As long as USA apologize to China? Some poor syntax there. You ARE a Chinese hack.

    • Franz Federschmidt

      2star, Thank you for your response. You have very interesting views on the topic. The world hopes that the PRC will support the free flow of commerce in international waters as the United States Navy does throughout the world every day. However, it would appear that the PLA(N) is much more interested in expanding sea claims that are not in keeping with international law. I respect your commitment to the PRC despite the shaky logic of your argument and wish your all the best.

      • 2star

        China is expanding her sea claims … no doubt about it but at the same time, China is protecting the shipping lanes because this shipping lanes are very important to China .. it is about the USD 7 trillions of cargo passing tru it every year. Any superpower will does the same as China.

        What i find it pathetic is … USA is currently crying foul over the Chinese development of islands because after all, China need more than one year to complete the development of those 7 islands … and why didn’t US sent any of her ships to those dispute sea on day 1 ? If US had done it on one day 1, i don’t think China will not able to develop those islands … correct or not.

        Another laughable joke from US ” Look, look China is sending jet fighters to those islands “. For the past year, everybody knows about China of building air strip on one of the island … so it won’t be a surprise if China is gonna to land some of her jet fighters there. But the USA was seen acting naive over the above issue… what a joke.

    • incredulous1

      I’m sorry but “meddled????” You and China expect the rest of the world to take you seriously with these incredulous statements?

      Everyone knows that there is no rule of law that would permit China to claim these islands or to fabricate islands. You, of course also know this. You are just hoping that this narrative goes unopposed. China would be the last country to which these islands and features belong, as they are farthest from your shores than any other claimant.

      China and yourself need to understand that simply because you claim something does not constitute sovereignty by any means.

      It is also clear that the PLAN plans to increase its belligerent activities beyond blockades of the Philippine Navy and shooting at Vietnamese patrol boats with your “Coast Guard.”

      This will lead to armed conflict sooner than later if this does not stop. How do you think the world managed to keep these sea lanes open all these decades without your militarization? There is NO legitimate reason for China to claim they are improving the situation for anyone by doing so. Thus I cannot put myself in the group who would “respect your commitment to the PRC.” You are right about only one thing in that the current POTUS has been conducting this affair in the most pathetic fashion possible.

      If I were the POTUS or a close advisor I would start providing China with ultimatums ASAP, and you should expect the same of the next POTUS. Soon your belligerence will come home to roost.

      • 2star

        After reading your comment, i am very sure you have zero idea about the below issue.

        Before i go into details … i would like to ask you a few questions. 1) How much do you know about the dispute waters/seas … how many areas are there ? how big are the areas ? 2) Do you know about any declaration on these areas …. do you know the content of the declaration … and who are involved and when was it made 3) Do you have any idea that some of the dispute islands had been invaded by certain countries way before China started to develop the 7 islands … do you know which are the dispute islands being invaded by other countries ( not China ) 4) Do you know that US did told (twice) the Philippine that US won’t get involve in the dispute water.

        • incredulous1

          I am well aware of the history of the islands and relevant seas, both in ancient times and in the past 100 years. AND, what matters today is the international rule of law by which civilized countries agreed to abide.

          Given China’s belligerent attempts to steal this territory from their current rightful owners, it is also clear that China would like to abrogate its position in the very sanctioning body which provided today’s civilized society the rule of law that lends stability to the world. You should immediately withdraw as both a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well from any treaties you previously signed which promised cooperation in such a framework. You should not pretend to be interested in collective security.

          Thus, China’s declarations have no merit on today’s international laws concerning sovereignty of territory belonging to others. Also, we are talking about significantly more than seven islands here, as you know. And, also as you know, there are currently no islands in the South China Sea which are “being invaded” by anyone other than China.

          Because the current US Administration chooses to avoid conflict at all costs by announcing that they won’t get involved in any conflicts you create does not mean this is the permanent or appropriate policy of the United States. Nor does it mean that we won’t cooperate with our allies with whom we have defense treaties.

          Also since you brought it up, you should examine how the rest of the nations concerned responded to those who previously chose to invade as such. Do you want to go the way of Japan in WWII? That is where you are headed, rapidly

          By all means, if you think it would help your cause, do go into details. I’m all ears, as will be my colleagues at CSIS and RAND and the University.

          • 2star

            Your words …
            I am well aware of the history of the islands and relevant seas, both in ancient times and in the past 100 years

            My reply:
            Wrong answer, it has nothing to do with ancient times & 100 years old history.

            Your words ….
            Given China’s belligerent attempts to steal this territory from their current rightful owners, it is also clear that China would like to abrogate its position in the very sanctioning body which provided today’s civilized society the rule of law that lends stability to the world.

            My reply:
            But you have no idea that China is the last nation ( among the dispute nations) to develop some of those disputed islands. .. Meaning you don’t know the real history of these dispute issue. ( That is why you dig into the ancient times and 100 years history, which is wrong)

            Your words:
            You should immediately withdraw as both a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well from any treaties you previously signed which promised cooperation in such a framework.

            My reply:
            If that is the case, US should had been the first one to withdraw as the permanent member of the UN Security Council. Again either you don’t much about international political arena or you are a bias one.

            Your words:
            Thus, China’s declarations have no merit on today’s international laws concerning sovereignty of territory belonging to others.

            My reply:
            Totally a BIG Wrong, China did not enforced any declaration … that shows that you are beating round the bush.

            Your words….
            Because the current US Administration chooses to avoid conflict at all costs by announcing that they won’t get involved in any conflicts you create does not mean this is the permanent or appropriate policy of the United States. Nor does it mean that we won’t cooperate with our allies with whom we have defense treaties.

            My reply:
            This shown that US is not sincere in keeping her words ( because from Mr Obama’s mouth ‘ we won’t involve in Spratly and the surrounding dispute waters “. Because of Philippine of inviting US into the dispute water, it somehow had breach the Declaration. Now you must be wondering … why i said ‘ Declaration ‘ over here. You need to learn more before answering back.

            Your words ….
            Also since you brought it up, you should examine how the rest of the nations concerned responded to those who previously chose to invade as such. Do you want to go the way of Japan in WWII?

            My reply:
            It is so wonderful when you brought up the Japanese and the WWII. It is just beautiful …. Just give you some tips … Japanese invasion of islands, Japanese surrendered in 1945, US was the ‘ big brother ‘, but US did not asked the Japanese to hand back those islands back to their previous owners … WHY ????

            I am so obliged to have a conversation with a group of CSIS and RAND scholars.

    • muzzleloader

      And you are an agent of the Chinese propaganda ministry.

  • We are not only need more investment in more submarines, we also need to restart F-22 assembly line and pumping out more of F-18 Super Hornet. We must also invest new weapons like the shore base supersonic anti-ship missiles and considering placing THAAD and PAC-3 system in Philippines and Vietnam?

  • Hugh

    Stronger talk from both sides. As for the disputed islands, don’t forget that China took over large border areas of India by force.

    • 2star

      The Sino India war – 1962.

      During that era, China’s weaponry was weak, her armies were weak too and she has no allies. But on the India’s side, she had plenty of allies and back ups. So how can China able to took or invade that disputed land ? It just don’t tally.

  • Heartland_Pilgrim

    Let a little reality set in…. the islands are no longer disputed by anyone who could make any difference. It’s all a lot of cry-baby rhetoric now. China has possession and no one is going to take it from them. That’s reality, like it or not. Saber rattling with no backbone makes the U.S. just look weak in the eyes of the entire world. Yes, we have a few modern weapons but without the leadership they may as well be spears and shields. Like the man said, “I am more afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion than I am of an army of lions led by a sheep”.

    • FedUpWithWelfareStates

      Right on the mark!

      Our military is led by career serving Idiots!

    • Matthew Schilling

      Pray for a massive monsoon to lay their toy islands waste.

      • John B. Morgen

        [Mother Nature] is the greatest weapon system on Earth!

  • jeffrey exposito

    The US has been quietly stocking up on its oil reserves beefing up defenses and hardening infrastructure in Guam and reaching basing agreements with Asian Pacific countries including the reactivation of the huge naval base in Subic Bay Philippines and expanding its presence in Japan among other things which include the basing of the first F35 squadrons in Okinawa by 2018. Now the stocking up of new long range anti ship weapons including the LRASM Tomoahawk anti ship and SM6. The writing is on the wall. .The political intelligence and military establishment in the US have determined that at the present course war with China is inevitable.

    • 2star

      USA did that during the cold war with USSR but end of the day, war did not took place. What ever US is now doing ( loading up weaponry in Guam, Okinawa ) is part of the military drill … or to be precise … some kind of Hollywood act.

      After WW2, all US past wars were about fighting against the so called terrorists and fighting against 3rd worlds. As always, US need at least a dozen allies back up before she dare to start a war.Since ww2, US never dare to engage in a direct war with someone her size.

  • Hugh

    If all nations traded co-operatively there would be no need for military build-ups. So, what is the agenda? Exports & imports through and around that region are global, so pretending to enhance security of the South China Sea doesn’t really address the vast areas beyond that – or are they the next to be given attention?