China's Military is Practicing Attacks on U.S. Navy Vessels
China's military is conducting drills for attacks on U.S. Navy vessels as part of its war plans for an invasion of Taiwan, according to a briefing produced by Taiwan's defense ministry and first reported by Reuters.
According to the report, China's war plans are focused on neutralizing U.S. Navy vessels entering the first island chain - the ring formed by Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia, enclosing the South China Sea and East China Sea. Specifically, China has been "using combat drills to carry out simulated attacks on U.S. ships that enter into the first island chain," the defense ministry asserted.
Beijing claims that independently-governed Taiwan is an inherent part of China and will eventually be reunified, by force if necessary. The U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, but maintains informal relations and sells Taiwan's government defense equipment. Historically, the U.S. has taken a policy of strategic ambiguity on the question of whether it will come to Taiwan's defense if China mounts an attack.
The report is not the first time that intelligence sources have suggested that China's military is conducting exercises with American targets in mind. Last year, commercial satellite imaging revealed a ballistic missile test complex in China's Takmalakan Desert, far inland in Xinjiang Province, with a variety of ship-shaped targets. These include at least one mockup made in the unmistakable shape of a U.S. Navy supercarrier. China has a unique arsenal of anti-ship ballistic missiles, designed as "carrier-killers," and analysts believe that the mockups are used for testing the missiles' targeting systems.
The latest set of targets at the Takmalakan site, reported by USNI News earlier this year, includes mockups of naval ships in port - a setup likely used for testing missiles' ability to distinguish between concrete piers and steel hulls.
For its part, the U.S. Navy has identified China as America's greatest strategic threat on the high seas. Current Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told Congress in his confirmation hearings last year that he would be "exclusively focused on the China threat and exclusively focused in moving our maritime strategy forward in order to protect Taiwan and all of our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific."