China Could Attack U.S. Pacific Bases in 'Minutes': Report

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Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles, potentially capable of sinking a U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in a single strike, pass Tiananmen Gate during a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Beijing, September 3, 2015. Andy Wong/Reuters

A military expert asserted that a ballistic strike on the U.S.' Pacific facilities could be conducted by Beijing within minutes. China's missile testing facilities have already been equipped with mock U.S. and Japanese targets.

In his latest report on the blog, "War on the Rocks," former Navy Cmdr. Thomas Shugart presented an in-depth view of China's military infrastructure in the Gobi Desert. The analysis offered side-by-side comparisons of Chinese military bases and U.S. facilities in Japan, showing striking similarities and revealing just how quickly Beijing could strike U.S. and Japanese assets if a conflict broke out. The region is already plagued with heightened tensions between nations, Washington-based military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.

“The time available between the first detection of a missile launch by U.S. space-based missile warning sensors to its impact would probably be on the order of 10 to 15 minutes,” Shugart wrote in his report. "In that short amount of time, U.S. early warning centers would have to detect the launched strike, assess it, and warn U.S. forces overseas."

The result would likely be devastating: Shugart wrote that a defense would necessitate a lightning-quick assessment and mass mobilization of the U.S.' entire fleet to avoid major damage, an unlikely feat in such a short amount of time. Shugart, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, recommended the U.S. military and its Japanese ally take preventative training measures to avoid such an outcome. 

Though the U.S. and China have shown no indications of heading toward a military conflict, Beijing may be prepared for such a surprise launch. Simple Google Earth surveillance showed blast-battered Chinese missile ranges that closely resembled U.S. installations in Japan such as the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, home to the 7th fleet, and the Misawa Air Base, where the U.S. Air Force 35th Fighter Wing was stationed. China has reportedly set up dummy vessels resembling the U.S. Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, such as the USS Stethem, which arrived in South Korea Friday, equipped with the high-tech Aegis missile defense system, to participate in joint war games.

The relationship between U.S. and China was strained by President Donald Trump's frequent attacks on Beijing's trade policy and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's suggestions that military action could be used to prevent China from accessing disputed islands in the South China Sea. During Tillerson's visit to China Sunday, however, he urged closer cooperation with Beijing and addressed the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. China has joined Washington in censuring its traditional ally, North Korea, in its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, but has been a vocal opponent of U.S. military influence in the region, including Washington's deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.