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Missile Wars in the Asia Pacific: The Threat of Chinese Regional Missiles and U.S.-Allied Missile Defense Response

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China has amassed a large arsenal of regional ballistic missiles capable of ranging all of Asia-Pacific. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) has also developed detailed doctrines articulating the use of these missiles to deny the United States and allied nations’ freedom of action during a regional contingency. The PLARF practices many of its exercises based on these doctrines and under realistic conditions that mimic adversary counter-tactics. In response, the U.S. and allied states deploy significant ballistic missile defense assets to deter and defend against the use of missiles. In this paper, an empirical evaluation of the performance of these regional missile defenses is conducted. The results indicate that regional missile defense remain robust and effective against small coercive signaling strikes. Against a limited suppression strike campaign aiming to delay and disrupt military movements, missile defenses remain robust if an early warning is available. Finally, against a large-scale coordinated missile campaign, missile defense assets are spread thin, and marginal cost to the defense is substantially high. If China can launch multiples waves of large-scale missile salvos or if critical missile assets are rendered nonfunctional, it could cause severe damage to military capabilities.

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