image_pdfimage_print SETH ROBSON AND LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 21, 2017

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — As worrisome as North Korea’s missile capability has become, defense experts say China is a more potent threat to U.S. interests in Asia, with Beijing capable of showering bases in Japan with missiles and leaving U.S. forces little time to react.

Google Earth images showing Chinese missile test sites on the edge of the Gobi Desert side by side with U.S. facilities in Japan were included in a recent “War on the Rocks” report by Navy Cmdr. Thomas Shugart, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

The analysis, which focuses on the People’s Liberation Army’s missile force and the threat it poses to U.S. installations, personnel and equipment in the Western Pacific, says U.S. forces would have almost no time to react to incoming Chinese missiles.

“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.

If that happened, U.S. aircraft would need to move and ships in port would need to be underway within minutes, he said..

Google Earth allows anyone to view sites that a few years ago only those with high-level security clearances could see, said former Air Force officer Ralph Cossa of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Hawaii.

One Chinese missile-test area looks a lot like Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, home of the 7th Fleet, with targets that appear to imitate docked Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Other targets look like airfields, planes, air-defense batteries, fuel depots, bunkers and power stations at Kadena and Misawa air bases. Some images show the impact of missiles on mock runways covered in hundreds of blast craters. See more…