CHINA INCREASING ABILITY TO DELIVER NUCLEAR WARHEADS TO U.S.
Posted August 25, 2012 by admin in China Military News
2012-08-25 — China is moving ahead with the development of a new and more capable generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles, increasing its existing ability to deliver nuclear warheads to the United States and to overwhelm missile defense systems, military analysts said this week.
Over all, China’s steady strengthening of its military capabilities for conventional and nuclear warfare has long caused concern in Congress and among American allies in East Asia, particularly lately as China has taken a more assertive position regarding territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas.
The Global Times, a newspaper directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, reported Wednesday that China was developing the capability to put multiple warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. But the newspaper disputed a report in Jane’s Defense Weekly that the latest Chinese ICBM, the Dongfeng-41, had been tested last month.
A Pentagon spokesman asked to comment did not directly address the potential new Chinese missile capability, but said the United States “remains committed to maintaining healthy, stable, reliable and continuous military-to-military relations with China and regularly discusses ways to reduce tensions and build trust in the region.”
The spokesman, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, said the United States carefully monitored China’s military developments and urged China “to exhibit greater transparency regarding its capabilities and intentions.”
Larry M. Wortzel, of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel created by Congress, said that China was developing the capability to put as many as 10 nuclear warheads on an ICBM, although dummy warheads could be substituted for some of the nuclear warheads. The dummy warheads would have heat and electromagnetic devices designed to trick missile defense systems, he said.
“The bigger implication of this is that as they begin to field a force of missiles with multiple warheads, it means everything we assume about the size of their nuclear arsenal becomes wrong,” said Mr. Wortzel, who is a former military intelligence officer and retired Army colonel.
China has separately tested submarine-launched missiles in recent weeks, which it could use to outflank American missile detection systems, Mr. Wortzel said. Most of the radar arrays that the United States has deployed against ballistic missiles were built during the cold war to detect attacks over polar routes.
Sun Zhe, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that China was developing its military forces only in response to continued efforts by other countries, particularly the United States, to improve their own forces.
“We have again and again said that we will not be the first country to use nuclear force,” he said. “We need to be able to defend ourselves, and our main threat, I’m afraid, comes from the United States.”
China’s development of long-range missiles is part of a much broader military expansion made possible by rapid budget growth in tandem with the Chinese economy, which had an output of $7.5 trillion last year, compared with $1.2 trillion in 2000.
China began sea trials last year for its first aircraft carrier, a retrofitted version of a Soviet vessel, and has begun talking this summer about the eventual construction of up to five aircraft carriers. China also began conducting fairly public flight tests in January last year for the J-20, its new stealth fighter jet.
The scale of China’s strategic missile program is much more secret. The Pentagon estimates that China currently has 55 to 65 ICBMs. China is also preparing two submarines for deployment, each with 12 missiles aboard, Mr. Wortzel said.
Those forces are dwarfed by those of the United States, which is cutting its inventory to 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons by 2018 under the latest arms control agreement with Russia.
Western forecasts vary on how many of the new Dongfeng-41 missiles China will produce, with 20 to 32 mobile launching systems planned. The mobile launchers make it harder to find and destroy a missile before it is launched. If each missile has 10 nuclear warheads, that could result in a few hundred to several hundred nuclear weapons.
But Tom Z. Collina, the research director of the Arms Control Association, said that China might not actually deploy multiple warheads without first developing and testing smaller warheads. And China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, agreeing not to conduct further nuclear tests.
The United States has tried to reassure Russia and China that its limited ballistic missile defenses are designed only to shoot down one or a few missiles launched by a rogue state. But missile defense advocates in the United States favor more ambitious, and also far costlier, systems, a spirited debate that has been followed with nervousness in Moscow and Beijing.
The United States has been considering where it can best place additional high-tech radar systems designed to track ballistic missiles. American forces currently have one in northern Japan and others that are deployed from time to time at sea. The Wall Street Journal reported this week on discussions of whether to put two more on land, in southern Japan and in Southeast Asia.
American officials have repeatedly said that their main concern is North Korea, which has been testing long-range missiles and developing nuclear weapons. But Chinese officials and experts have been suspicious that American defense systems are aimed at their country’s forces as well.
“I have no doubt that one of the goals of the missile defenses is to contain threats from North Korea, but objectively speaking, a high-tech expansion of U.S. military biceps impacts China, too,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. He added that discussions had taken place in China on whether to develop missile defense systems as well.