China on verge of fielding ‘nuclear triad’: US experts

AMMUNITION::A US commission said that ‘considerable ambiguity’ remains about China’s nuclear situation, such as numbers of warheads

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - Page 3

Beijing is on the cusp, perhaps within two years, of fielding a true “nuclear triad” of land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and air-dropped nuclear bombs, a US commission said on Wednesday.

“China is also pursuing a variety of strategic military capabilities with far-reaching implications,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission chairman Dennis Shea said.

Releasing the commission’s annual report to Congress, Shea said in answer to questions that the bipartisan group continued to strongly support Taiwan’s democratic institutions and its military security needs.

He said that members of the commission had “different views” on what weapons systems should be sold to Taiwan.

“Some members support selling F-16C/Ds to Taiwan and we always express a strong sentiment for the security of Taiwan,” he said.

In his opening statement, Shea said that the People’s Liberation Army reportedly tested a submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile this year.

“This will provide China with a more flexible, survivable nuclear arsenal,” he said. “China also reportedly tested another new class of ballistic missiles, probably called the DF-41, that is likely to incorporate a Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle capability that would allow it to reach multiple cities simultaneously, including those within the continental US.”

However, “considerable ambiguity” remains about China’s nuclear posture, including basic information such as the total number of warheads it holds, Shea said.

The commission is urging the US Congress to seek details from the US State Department about its plans to open discussions or negotiations with Beijing about China joining nuclear arms limitation and control agreements.

The Taipei Times reported last week on other aspects of the commission’s report which warned that the cross-strait military balance continued to shift decisively in favor of China.