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Talk of the Day -- China forms missile brigade for South China Sea

2012/07/02 21:26:41

China has set up a new missile brigade in its southern province of Guangdong as part of a "shock and awe" strategy to deter other countries with claims to the South China Sea from challenging its dominance in the region, a local newspaper reported Monday.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the United Daily News said the new 827 Ballistic Missile Brigade is based in Guangdong's Shaoguan City.

While the brigade's administrative building was still under construction at the end of March, missile launch vehicles had been posted at the Shaoguan base, the report said.

Missiles installed at the base might include Dongfeng (DF)-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles and Dongfeng-16 -- a new type of ballistic missile that has a longer range than anything in China's current cross-Taiwan Strait arsenal, according to the report.

The exposure of the new Chinese missile brigade came amid increasingly active efforts by Vietnam and the Philippines to ramp up their sovereignty claims to South China Sea island groups, the report said.

The following is an excerpt from the United Daily News report on China's "shock and awe" strategy to underscore its claim to the South China Sea:

Satellite images on the Internet show that the new base covers a large area, with a number of missile launch vehicles parked outside a hangar at the northeastern wing of the base.

Some vehicles stand 16 meters long and are mounted with cylindrical tubes, while others stand some 12 meters long with square-shaped tubes that look like those used for a new type of ballistic missile unveiled by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) earlier this year.

Military experts said the new missile base is equipped with DF-21D anti-ship missiles that have a range of 2,000-3,000 km and are potentially capable of hitting moving targets with pinpoint precision.

Some geopolitical analysts have called DF-21D missile a "game changer" that could threaten the U.S. aircraft carrier fleet's supremacy in the Pacific, particularly if conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Strait or in the South China Sea.

The new DF-16 has a range of about 1,200 km and possesses considerable destructive power, military experts said.

Judging from Shaoguan's geographic location, they said, the 827 Missile Brigade is apparently charged with the mission of intimidating Taiwan and countries bordering the South China Sea.

For instance, Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, is less than 1,000 km away from Shaoguan. If a conflict breaks out between China and Vietnam over their conflicting claims to the South China Sea island groups, the 827 Missile Brigade could include Hanoi as a target.

Besides China, five other countries -- Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei -- also claim full or partial sovereignty over the South China Sea island groups and surrounding waters, which are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves and are close to one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also become increasingly assertive in their South China Sea claims.

After a two-month-long standoff in the Scarborough Shoal between the Philippines and China ended because of adverse weather in late June, the Philippine government has opened a small kindergarten on another islet, Pagasa Island (known as Chungyeh Island in Mandarin Chinese) in the Spratlys.

In the meantime, Vietnam has purchased a large quantity of naval and aerial weaponry from Russia and deployed Su-27 jet fighters to inspect the Spratlys recently.

Moreover, Vietnam passed a maritime law in June that claims sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly islandsin the South China Sea. Taiwan has protested such a move. (July 2,2012).

(By Sofia Wu)