Why Tokyo should be concerned over Beijing’s rising military might.
Over the last several years Sino-Japanese relations have reached low after new low—all thanks to claims and counterclaims over the Senkaku islands (China refers to them as the Diaoyu islands). The relationship between the two countries, which had been tepid at best—quickly cooled beginning in 2010 as both sides jockeyed for position over the disputed islands.
The challenge posed by the People’s Liberation Army has shaken a complacent Japanese government, which had left its national security establishment virtually unchanged since the 1980s. A national security council similar to that in the United States has been formed, secrecy laws have been passed and Japan’s defenses are shifting southward. Here are a five weapon systems that Tokyo should worry about as tensions with Beijing continue to simmer:
J-20 Stealth Fighter:
Japan lost control of her airspace during the Second World War to devastating effect. The result: as many as 900,000 people killed in aerial bombing raids. Since then, Japan has invested in only the best American fighters.
Unfortunately, American refusal to sell the F-22 Raptor overseas and the aging of the F-15J fighter is set to create a window of vulnerability. Even worse news for Japan, China is developing something that could push through Tokyo’s airspace: the J-20 fighter.
China’s first 5th generation fighter, the J-20 is a large, delta-winged aircraft with a long, broad fuselage ending in two turbofan engines. The aircraft is in advanced stages of development. There are six demonstrators flying, with the last two spotted in November and December of last year. The U.S. Air Force estimates the aircraft will become operational some time between 2017 and 2019.
S-400 Surface to Air Missile System:
According to reports, China seems set to purchase (or is very close to purchasing—reports on this vary) six battalions of S-400s. Each S-400 battalion consists of a command post, radar systems and twelve launch vehicles, each with four 40N6 missiles.
The S-400 is a highly sophisticated system and would be a boon to Beijing’s air-defense capabilities. The radar system can track up to one hundred targets at a time and engage twelve simultaneously. It also has some limited capability to detect stealth aircraft.
The 40N6 missile has a range of 400 kilometers. Deployed on China’s coastline, it brings all of Taiwan’s airspace into range. Similarly and of particular concern to the Japanese, it will also be able to put the Senkaku Islands under range.
DF-21A Medium Range Ballistic Missile:
China has a vast arsenal of conventionally armed short and medium range ballistic missiles. Originally designed to threaten Taiwan, China’s conventional ballistic missiles have in time grown in accuracy and range, to the point where they could now be used to strike targets across Japan.
The DF-21A medium range ballistic missile is a solid fueled ballistic missile of great precision. Operational since the mid-1990s, the DF-21A has a range of up to 2,150 kilometers, placing all of Japan within striking range from the Chinese mainland.
The DF-21A carries a single 500-kilogram warhead, which can be a conventional unitary warhead, conventional submunition, chemical or even nuclear. (That having been said, China has a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons, which would likely preclude the use of Chinese nukes against a non-nuclear Japanese state.)