Rapid expansion of Chinese naval power and access denial capability draws much attention among Western policymakers these days. Though seemingly defensive, access denial capability is more offensive than commonly thought. It is a nonverbal Monroe Doctrine to deploy missiles to destroy Western fleets. While experts speculate China, a recent article in the Diplomat Magazine notes that an increasing number of authoritarian regimes are building up access denial capabilities to defy Western naval supremacy in their neighboring sea area, and establish dominance in their self-assumed maritime sphere of influence. Therefore, Western policymakers must explore the strategy to stop proliferation of anti-ship cruise missile and nullify their access denial capabilities (“Anti-Access Goes Global”; Diplomat Magazine; December 2, 2011).
Regarding China’s access denial capability, Associate Professor Andrew Erickson at US Naval War College commented “[those missiles] put U.S. forces on the wrong side of physics” in his lecture entitled "Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles" at Naval War College Museum on September 8, 2011. See the video below.
Along with China, some autocracies, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea, are keen on deploying access denial missiles. Among them, North Korea poses little threats as their missiles are converted from old Soviet weaponry. More serious threats are Syria and Iran. Both countries import access denial missiles from Russia and China. Although Iran has been posing critical dangers to the global community by pursuing nuclear project and sponsoring terrorism, China exports advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran, and even built a factory to make such missiles there (“Inside the Ring --- China-Iran Missile Sales”; Washington Times; November 2, 2011). This summer, Iran tested Tonder land to sea missile near the strategic Strait of Holmuz. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard claims that this missile flies in Mach 3 speed and its maximum range is 186 miles (“Iran Fires Anti-Ship Missiles near Key Gulf Strait”; Defense News; 6 July, 2011). It is likely that Iran used advanced technology from China to make this missile. Therefore, I argue repeatedly that the threat of China is beyond the Asia Pacific. Furthermore, Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that non-state actors like Hezbollah possesses more advanced anti-ship missiles than some sovereign states in his farewell speech at the American Enterprise Institute on May 24.
As to missile technology, Harry Kazianis, Assistant Editor of the Diplomat Magazine, comments “While such technology isn’t new, the effective ranges of such weapons have increased tremendously, along with their accuracy, speed of delivery and availability. Defending against such systems is therefore a major headache for military planners.” It is estimated that China currently has anti-ship missiles with a range of 1,500 to 2,700 kilometers, which exceeds the combat radius of Western fighters on aircraft carriers. Technically speaking, Western navies may be able to learn real combat lessons from the Falkland War. The Royal Navy fought against Argentina within the striking rage of French-made Exocet anti-ship missiles. The problem not only war capability but also psychology. As naval vessels are more high tech-equipped, the cost of losing them in the combat has grown greater, which makes Western navies more cautious. Therefore, the threat of nonverbal Monroe Doctrine by autocracies is considerable.
Talking of the Monroe Doctrine Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues repeatedly in his book “Dangerous Nation” that it is offensive than defensive as it legitimizes American expansion in the Western Hemisphere. Professor Terumasa Nakanishi of Kyoto University comments more harshly in his book “The History of the Decline and Fall of the British Empire”. Until the end of the 19th century, British elites found the doctrine too Yankeeism and unacceptably bizarre, according to Nakanishi. Only when the rise of Germany posed critical challenges to British hegemony, did Marques of Salisbury accept it. Remember, Lord Salisbury is the prime minister who founded well known Anglo-Japanese alliance to manage the change in global power balance in the post Victorian era. History suggests how costly it is to leave authoritarian regimes to claim nonverbal Monroe Doctrine as they like. Therefore, it is urgent for us to explore strategies to nullify their access denial capability, so that we can defend our sea lanes around the globe. Tomahawk attack to anti-ship missile sites from nuclear powered submarine can be one of those strategies. We should not allow China and other autocracies to “occupy the sea”.