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Beijing's military parade on the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China showcased new weapons systems that could deter the U.S. from intervening in a mainland invasion of Taiwan (Xinhua/Kyodo)
Communist China at 70

China's military parade heralds 'war plan' for US and Taiwan

Beijing's new arsenal designed to deter American forces while invading Taipei

TETSURO KOSAKA, Nikkei senior staff writer | China

TOKYO -- Beijing flexed its muscles on Oct. 1 with one of the country's biggest-ever military parades to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China.

The array of new weaponry showcased in the extravaganza reflects China's "war plan," which is aimed at realizing the military annexation of Taiwan by 2049 -- the centennial of Communist Party rule -- while preventing intervention by the U.S.

Drawing particularly strong attention from defense officials worldwide was the Dongfeng-17, or DF-17, China's new type of medium-range ballistic missile.

The DF-17 launches like an ordinary ballistic missile. But as its warhead is equipped with a small wing, the new missile is said to be capable of flying at hypersonic speeds as well as acting like a glider after being separated from a booster.

The DF-17 can approach a target while gliding at low altitude outside the coverage of enemy radar. This raises the possibility that even the American military's missile defense system cannot intercept it.

The U.S. and Russia are said to be developing similar weapons. But changing the trajectory reportedly is not so easy due to the hypersonic speeds. The two countries have yet to unveil this type of weapon.

The name Dongfeng derives from the words of Mao Zedong, who in a 1957 speech talked about the "two winds in the world," an east wind and a west wind. The leader predicted that the wind from the east, socialism, would dominate the west wind, imperialism.

The true performance of the DF-17 unveiled by Beijing is also unclear. But as many as 16 of the missiles appeared in the parade, highlighting that China at least has reached the stage of mass production.

The parade also showed off the DF-26. This medium-range ballistic missile is dubbed "the Guam killer," given its estimated range of 3,000 km to 4,000 km, far enough to destroy U.S. military bases in Guam in a preemptive strike.

The Guam bases, including Andersen Air Force Base, are a major stronghold of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, formerly known as the U.S. Pacific Command.

If China takes the plunge and tries to annex Taiwan by force in the future, the DF-17 and DF-26 can be regarded as crucial in efforts to obstruct or prevent U.S. military intervention, which would be the biggest hurdle.

Military vehicles carrying DF-17 hypersonic missiles drive past Tiananmen Square in Beijing during the Oct. 1 parade on the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.   © Reuters

If the U.S. engages militarily despite various Chinese "intervention obstruction weapons," the two countries will clash in earnest on the waters and islands in the western Pacific as well as in the skies overhead.

The latest military parade also brought forth other weapons such as fighter jets along with early warning and control aircraft and tanker aircraft that support them.

The Chinese air force's fighter jets are regarded as inferior to their U.S. counterparts in terms of engine and stealth performance. But China apparently intends to make up for its qualitative disadvantage by boosting the number of jets deployed.

If large numbers of fighters carrying air-to-air missiles are waiting, supported by early warning and control aircraft and tankers, the fighters of the U.S. Air Force and Navy will be unable to act so freely.

China's DF-26 missile is dubbed "the Guam killer," thought capable of reaching military bases on the U.S. territory. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

Drones have the potential to bolster Chinese forces further. Military trucks carrying drones of various sizes also appeared in the parade.

One particularly eye-catching model was an attack craft that resembled a huge, one-eyed ray. It is believed to be the Gongji-11, or "Attack-11," which is an improved version of the Lijian, or "Sharp Sword," flying wing unmanned attack airplane unveiled previously.

Some countries including the U.S., U.K. and France are developing similar drones. But Chinese models have drawn attention because Beijing and Washington are thought to lead the way in artificial intelligence.

Military craft fly in formation over Tiananmen Square during the Oct. 1 parade. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

In the future, several hundred AI-equipped attack drones might be deployed intensively for combat operations and become capable of carrying out missions autonomously, even in harsh environments such as a communication disruption with the command center.

Beyond the drones, the parade also reflected advanced combat by displaying specialized vehicles for information warfare troops.

Though China gave no detailed explanation about their performance, devices mounted on the vehicles are suspected of having the ability to jam an enemy's communications by sending powerful signals all over its deployment area.

Such an attack could outmaneuver the American military, which has an advantage in fighting while using a network of army, navy and air force weapons linked through communications.

If the U.S. and China clash militarily in the future, with Washington continuing to hold the upper hand despite Beijing's new arsenal, the use of nuclear weapons will become China's last resort.

In the past, China has lacked a ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland in the event of a nuclear war, though Beijing has possessed shorter-range ballistic missiles able to reach American military bases in Guam and Japan.

China unveiled various advanced weapons and vehicles during the Oct. 1 military parade. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi) 

To overcome its biggest weakness in military strategy against the U.S., China developed the DF-41.

The recent parade marked the debut of this new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, which has a range of 12,000 km to 15,000 km.

One DF-41 missile can carry up to 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. It is difficult for even the U.S. military's missile defense system to cope with the DF-41 perfectly.

If nuclear warheads are mounted on the DF-41, the missile's destructive power would be massive.

The U.S. historically has halted the deployment of MIRVs, which could tilt the nuclear balance, under past disarmament treaties with the former Soviet Union and Russia.

But by looking only at Russia for many years, the American military now faces a sword called the DF-41 pointed at the U.S. by China, the world's third-largest nuclear power.

The parade also highlighted the Julang-2, a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM. Julang means "Huge Wave."

JL-2 missiles are mounted on Jin-class strategic nuclear-powered submarines deployed in the central waters of the South China Sea, which the Chinese navy seeks to make a "sanctuary" by building a group of artificial islands.

China is said to be developing the longer-range JL-3. If Beijing deploys the Tang-class next-generation strategic nuclear-powered submarine carrying JL-3 missiles, the country's nuclear deterrent against the U.S. will be enhanced.

This multilayered approach to deter the U.S. military using hypersonic glide missiles, attack drones and new ICBMs serves China's goal of annexing Taiwan by force in the coming decades.

China shows off its armored personnel carrier during the Oct. 1 military parade in Beijing. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

In an invasion of Taiwan, China likely first would plunge the island into a temporary state of anarchy by paralyzing its military, administrative and municipal functions through cyberattacks and acts of sabotage by armed agents infiltrated there in advance.

Army, navy and air force troops from China's Eastern Theater Command probably would cross the Taiwan Strait and try to land on the island, ostensibly in response to a request for help from a pro-Chinese Communist Party "provisional government" there.

The development would resemble the case of Russia's military depriving Ukraine of its Crimean Peninsula and eastern region.

Many crawler-driven light armored vehicles suitable for such missions appeared in Beijing's parade, as did the two-seater Lie Ying, or "Falcon," autogyro -- suitable for the quick deployment of commandos to seize control of a city.

Chinese autogyros are suitable for the quick deployment of commandos to seize control of a city.   © Reuters

China is not expanding its military power unnecessarily. The regime is modernizing its military capabilities while keeping its "war plan" in mind.

Even if question marks hang over individual weapons, their performance will improve with the passage of time.

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