China Strengthens Strategic Capability, Report Says

The U.S. Defense Department said in a report issued yesterday that China continues to strengthen its strategic capability through updates to its nuclear and missile systems, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, June 3; Anne Flaherty, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Aug. 16).

“China has the most active land-based ballistic and cruise missile program in the world. It is developing and testing several new classes and variants of offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading certain missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses,” according to the Pentagon report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People‚Äôs Republic of China 2010.”

Beijing is pursuing “more survivable delivery systems” in order to update its nuclear deterrent, the report says. The nation in the last few years has fielded “road-mobile,” solid-propellant versions of its Dongfeng ICBM. The Dongfeng 31A is believed to have a range of nearly 7,000 miles, enabling it to reach much of the continental United States.

Also possibly in development is a mobile ICBM that could be loaded with multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, according to the report.

Meanwhile, China is “acquiring large numbers of highly accurate cruise missiles” and deploying them on land and at sea, the report says.

The nation has fielded from 1,050 to 1,150 short-range ballistic missiles opposite the island of Taiwan, which has an independent government but is still held by Beijing to be Chinese territory (see GSN, July 19).

A ballistic missile intended to be used against enemy ships is also in development, the Pentagon said.

“The missile has a range in excess of 1,500 kilometer, is armed with a maneuverable warhead, and when integrated with appropriate command and control systems, is intended to provide the [People’s Liberation Army] the capability to attack ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean,” the report says.

The Defense Department determined that China has in excess of 60 submarines and has nearly finished building a naval installation on Hainan Island in the South China Sea that could be used for docking ballistic missile submarines and other vessels (see GSN, May 6, 2008).

Work on the nation’s latest nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine is continuing, the report says. One of the Jin-class vessels is already operational and another four such vessels could be put to sea (U.S. Defense Department report, Aug. 16).

Beijing’s aggressive spending on its effort to become a top military force has been recognized for some time, AP reported. China has rejected U.S. concerns about its defense program. Frustrated by Washington’s military support for Taiwan, it has halted U.S.-Chinese military contact that could address the issue.

“The limited transparency in China’s military and security affairs enhances uncertainty and increases the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation,” the report says (Flaherty, Associated Press).

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the Pentagon document “paints an alarming picture, despite its ‘glass half full’ perspective,” the Washington Times reported.
“It is clear that China is aggressively expanding its military capabilities, which appear to be aimed at limiting American strategic options in the Pacific,” he said. “This troubling reality is inconsistent with China’s supposed interest in fostering a peaceful, stable region” (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, Aug. 16).
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