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S-400 Strengthens China’s Hand in the Skies

S-400 Strengthens China’s Hand in the Skies

TAIPEI — A deal between Russia and China for procurement of the new S-400 air defense system will serve as a force multiplier for Beijing in its quest to dominate the skies along its borders, experts said.

The 400-kilometer-range system will, for the first time, allow China to strike any aerial target on the island of Taiwan, in addition to reaching air targets as far as New Delhi, Calcutta, Hanoi and Seoul. The Yellow Sea and China’s new air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea will also be protected. The system will permit China, if need be, to strike any air target within North Korea.

The S-400 will also allow China to extend, but not dominate, the air defense space closer to the disputed Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, said Vasiliy Kashin, a China defense specialist at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Moscow. China refers to the islands as the Diaoyu, and tensions between Beijing and Japan have been increasing for several years as China continues to claim the islands.

China’s current inventory of S-300s, at a range of 300 kilometers, only allows it to strike targets along Taiwan’s northwestern coast and cannot reach capital cities in India and South Korea, said Alexander Huang, chairman, Council on Strategic and Wargaming Studies, Taipei. The S-400 will challenge Taiwan’s ability to conduct air defense operations within its own ADIZ, which covers the Taiwan Strait.

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