A Chinese antiship ballistic missile could alter the rules in the Pacific and place U.S. Navy carrier strike groups in jeopardy.
Chinese leaders and strategists have been thinking of using land-based missiles to hit threatening sea targets for more than three decades. Today, the discussion is increasingly widespread, technical, and operationally focused. This suggests the possibility that China may be closer than ever to mastering such a system—with perhaps a strategically publicized test sometime in the future—or even to using it in the event of conflict. Indeed, the mere perception that China might have an antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) capability could be a game-changer, with profound consequences for deterrence, military operations, and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.