Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
China May Pursue Nuclear Cruise Missiles, U.S. Military Study Warns
U.S. military analysts are concerned that China could be contemplating arming its growing arsenal of cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.
A new report on the Chinese cruise missile threat by the U.S. National Defense University notes that the People's Liberation Army in the future could turn to nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to counter U.S. Navy carrier strike groups, Defense News reported on Monday. Such naval-warfare tactics were previously emphasized by the former Soviet Union.
The paper quotes former U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michael McDevitt as saying China "is likely already 'arm[ing] nuclear attack submarines with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.'" However, the report does not cite any evidence that China is actually fielding such "substrategic nuclear weapons," though it notes the "Soviet Navy has clearly influenced" China's naval development.
Factors making the deployment of nuclear-armed, low-altitude missiles less likely include China's relatively weak command-and-control capabilities, and that doing so would seem to go against its nuclear doctrine. Beijing says it retains nuclear weapons solely as a means of deterring attack, and that it would never be the first side to use such armaments in a conflict.
China is estimated to possess about 250 nuclear warheads, according to a 2013 report by the International Panel on Fissile Materials.
The National Defense University paper more broadly warned about the threat to U.S. carrier strike groups from China's new anti-ship cruise missiles, contending that the People's Liberation Army thinks that these weapons, which are cheaper to produce than U.S. antimissile systems, can overwhelm the defenses of U.S. warships.
Note to our Readers
GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.
Nov. 19, 2014
The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies has created a series of 3D models of ballistic and cruise missiles for the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
July 30, 2014
This page contains interactive 3D missile models for North Korea. Users can drag the model by pressing and holding their mouse’s scroll wheel. They can zoom in and out on the model by rolling their scroll wheel up and down, and can orbit the model by clicking and dragging their left mouse button.
This article provides an overview of China’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.