China has a more critical but less-articulated goal of controlling the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which if achieved, could tip strategic military superiority from the United States to China in the Pacific, according to an analyst.
Sumihiko Kawamura, a former rear admiral and commander of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's antisubmarine air wing, said that Beijing is trying to turn the South China Sea into 'a safe haven' for its nuclear-powered submarines, which are armed with ballistic missiles that can reach the United States.
For that purpose, seizing the Senkakus - just 190 km east of Taiwan and close to the northern gateway to the South China Sea - is indispensable, Kawamura said.
According to the Japan Times, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are considered China's only viable option to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent against the US, because America has identified all of China's ICBM silos and could easily destroy them in a pre-emptive nuclear strike, he said.
If Beijing maintains a second-strike capability with SLBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland, Kawamura said, this risk would possibly dissuade America from intervening in a major conflict involving China, the report said.
"This is directly related to the nuclear strategy of China. China will never give up the Senkakus," the former vice principal of the Joint Staff College of the Self-Defense Forces said.
"This is just the beginning. Even if it takes 100 years, Beijing will try to seize the islands" to turn the South China Sea into a safe haven for its missile subs, he added.
Kawamura indicated the MSDF has the capability, with the U.S. Navy, to contain China's submarines within the South China Sea, which is partially enclosed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.
"(We can) sink Chinese submarines anytime we want if it comes to a showdown" in the Pacific Ocean, Kawamura said, who in August published a book detailing a possible Japanese-Chinese military clash over the Senkaku Islands.
"No option is left (for China) except for trying to make the South China Sea a safe haven and defending submarines carrying nuclear missiles there," Kawamura added. (ANI)