A new Chinese missile may be able to reach the Pacific island of Guam, making it more difficult for US forces based there to intervene on behalf of Taiwan, a Washington Post columnist claimed on Thursday. The article cited an “overlooked” revelation in one of the classified documents leaked from the Pentagon.
“China is quickly improving its capacity to strike thousands of miles from its shores and prevent the United States from intervening,” wrote Josh Rogin, citing the conclusions of US intelligence agencies.
The document Rogin is referring to is a report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff intelligence directorate, marked top secret and dated February 28. It briefs the generals on the February 25 test of the new “hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile,” dubbed DF-17 (Dongfeng, ‘East Wind’).
The briefing says that DF-17 has a “high probability of penetrating” US missile defenses and is designed to reach targets beyond the Second Island Chain, a Pentagon term for a line in the Pacific stretching from Japan to New Guinea.
The test involved the missile traveling a distance of 2,100 kilometers (1,305 miles) over 12 minutes, but a 2021 Pentagon assessment believes DF-17 may have a range of up to 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles). The new missile also has “hypersonic glide” capability, making it a better “carrier killer” than its predecessors, Rogin noted.
“If American ships can be held at bay and US forces in Asia can be targeted at will, any allied intervention in Taiwan’s defense would be more difficult and costly,” Rogin wrote.
The self-described “neoliberal” columnist and CNN political analyst argued that “peace in Asia depends on maintaining the credibility of the United States-led deterrent.” The US and its allies, Rogin wrote, need to “shift resources to nullify the new threat and shore up their ability to protect their assets.” How exactly that might be achieved, however, he did not say.
The US government has not officially confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents, and has launched a manhunt for their source. Most of the initially released files dealt with the Ukraine conflict, while subsequent revelations expanded their scope. Israeli and South Korean officials have already denounced some of the claims in the documents as false.
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