has deployed missiles giving it second-strike capability against U.S.
| August 7 2006
The U.S. intelligence community has
determined that Beijing has developed and deployed a series of missiles
that would give China second-strike nuclear capability in any confrontation
with the United States. The determination of a sea-based deterrent is
said to have significantly increased Beijing's threat to the United
"It is clear to me that China is now embarking on a significant
investment in a second-strike capability to ensure the survival and,
thus, viability of its nuclear forces," said Richard Fisher, a
researcher at the International Assessment and Strategy Center and a
leading U.S. expert on China.
In a presentation to the American Enterprise Institute on July 11, Mr.
Fisher said China has launched or tested a series of nuclear missiles
He said the first Type 94 submarine ballistic nuclear missile has been
equipped and launched.
The Type 94, which began construction in 1999, is designed to contain
the JL-2 submarine-launched nuclear missiles. Each submarine is meant
to contain 16 JL-2s, or DF-31s, with a range of 8,000 kilometers, which
would allow Chinese submarines to target portions of the United States
from areas near the Chinese coast.
The disclosure of the completion of the Type 94 submarine appeared to
mark a significant acceleration in China's nuclear submarine program.
As late as May 2004, the Pentagon asserted that the new Chinese missile
submarine would not be operational until around 2010.
"The JL-2 SLBM has undergone a series of tests," Mr. Fisher
said. "The potential for this to be armed with multiple warheads
U.S. intelligence sources agree with Mr. Fisher's assessment. They said
Beijing has made the production of nuclear warheads and launchers a
priority, with emphasis on mobility and decoys.
The Pentagon has determined that China plans to deploy the DF-31A, an
extended-range variant of the mobile long-range DF-31, in 2007. The
sources said the new three-stage, solid-fuel, mobile missile, with a
range of 12,000 kilometers, could carry up to three payloads that would
separate and overcome existing U.S. missile defenses.
"For China, nuclear weapons largely have four purposes: one, strategic
deterrence; two, retaliation; three, counter-coercion; and four, great-power
status," Rand Corp. senior analyst Evan Medeiros said.
Another Chinese missile, the DF-5 Mod 2, with a range of 13,000 kilometers,
is said to have completed deployment in 2005. The sources said China
has developed the two-stage, liquid-fuel missile to carry between five
and 10 warheads.
Beijing has also sought to overcome the vulnerability of its fleet by
building a huge naval base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
The sources said the base would contain an underground facility to shelter
platforms, such as nuclear submarines, against any potential U.S. attack.
Intelligence sources said Beijing has been developing an anti-ship ballistic
missile. They said the weapon could be a sea-based version of the DF-11
Mod 1 land-based missile.
"One could easily imagine that there is a plan to drop, in a surprise
manner, 10 to 12 warheads on either side of the continental United States
in conjunction with a build-up to rescue Taiwan from whatever kind of
attack China seems to be contemplating," Mr. Fisher said. "I
can easily imagine, I do not know, President Hillary Clinton sitting
in the White House wondering, 'Gee, we could not do anything to stop
those 12 warheads that did not explode but landed off of all our major
cities on both coasts.' And do we really want to be sending our single
carrier that might be deployed with the Seventh Fleet into this maelstrom?
That is the kind of coercion potential
that is out there."
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