Friday, August 26, 2011

Meanwhile: Beijing expanding its nuclear stockpile

Bill Gertz
The Washington Times

China is expanding its nuclear forces with a new multiwarhead mobile missile and keeps its strategic stockpiles in deep underground bunkers, the Pentagon disclosed in its annual report to Congress on the Chinese military.

China is thought to have up to 75 long-range nuclear missiles, including hard-to-find, road-mobile DF-31 and DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), according to the report, which was released Wednesday. China also has 120 intermediate- and medium-range missiles.

“China is both qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic missile forces,” the report states. “Beijing will likely continue to invest considerable resources to maintain a limited nuclear force … to ensure the [People’s Liberation Army] can deliver a damaging retaliatory nuclear strike.” The report states for the first time that China appears to be developing a third road-mobile ICBM, possibly capable of carrying a multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicle.

Additionally, the report provides new details on China’s efforts to develop missile defenses and says China conducted a warhead-intercept test as part of the system.

China also has built its first Jin-class ballistic-missile submarine that “appears ready,” but its missile, the JL-2, a variant of the DF-31, is still being flight-tested.

A disclosure in the annual assessment reveals China’s deep-underground facilities in the north that is connected with more than 3,000 miles of tunnels. The facilities are used for storing and hiding missiles and nuclear warheads, and for command bunkers hardened against nuclear attacks.

The facilities were built on the Chinese belief that the weapons and headquarters are less vulnerable to attack. The Chinese military has been using the underground facilities since the early 1950s.

U.S. officials said most details of Chinese nuclear arms previously were kept secret.

“China’s strategic missile force, the Second Artillery Corps (SAC), has developed and utilized [underground facilities] since deploying its oldest liquid-fueled missile systems and continues to utilize them to protect and conceal their newest and most modern solid-fueled mobile missiles,” the report says.

The facilities include an “obscure tunnel network” stretching more than 3,000 miles.

The report said China’s underground nuclear sites are based on Beijing’s assumption that “it might have to absorb an initial nuclear blow prior to engaging in ‘nuclear counterattack,’ ” the report says.

According to the newsletter the Diplomat, a recent presentation at the Naval War College disclosed that the underground facilities were made public by China’s state-run CCTV in March 2008. The television network showed some of the tunneling at a location in mountainous northern Hubei province. The facilities reportedly are located hundreds of yards below ground.

“Although secrecy and ambiguity remain China’s predominant approach in the nuclear realm, occasional disclosure of information on some missile-related [underground facilities] is consistent with an effort to send strategic signals on the credibility of its limited nuclear arsenal,” the report says.

The published reports have shown images of tunnels, modern network-based security and control centers, and advanced camouflage measures, the report says.
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