Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

China Seen Within 2 Years of Having Active Sub-Based Nuke Deterrent

A nuclear-powered Chinese submarine, shown in 2009. China could be able within two years to field nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on its submarines, according to a draft U.S. report (AP Photo/Guang Niu). A nuclear-powered Chinese submarine, shown in 2009. China could be able within two years to field nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on its submarines, according to a draft U.S. report (AP Photo/Guang Niu).

China is believed to be no more than two years away from being able to deploy nuclear-armed missiles on submarines, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing an unfinalized version of a study from an expert panel established by Congress.

The Chinese military is "on the cusp of attaining a nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-dropped nuclear bombs," according to the draft study by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Though the Chinese navy since the early 1980s has possessed a token ability to fire ballistic missiles from underwater vessels, the Asian power is now close to being ready to roll out a "near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent," the commission report states.

China is presently fielding two Jin-class submarines with the capacity to carry JL-2 ballistic missiles with a maximum flight distance of 4,600 miles. Up to three more vessels could eventually be put to sea, according to Reuters.

Submarine-based nuclear weapons are more difficult to eliminate than other legs of the nuclear triad in a first strike, and so are assumed to ensure the viability of a nation's nuclear deterrent.  If China is seeking to ensure it has the ability to launch a reprisal nuclear strike on the United States, it "would necessarily affect Indian and Russian perceptions about the potency of their own deterrent capabilities vis-a-vis China," the report concludes.

China is the only one of the five recognized nuclear powers to be building up its nuclear arsenal, according to the analysis. The country is projected by the Arms Control Association to have 240 nuclear weapons. 

The U.S.-China commission called for the State Department to disclose just what it has done to persuade Beijing to take part in formal arms control talks. Thus far, the United States' primary partner in nuclear reduction efforts has been Russia.

The commission advised Congress to "treat with caution" any plan for the United States to enact new arms control cuts absent specific transparency on the status of China's nuclear arsenal usage doctrine.

The finalized report from the 12-person panel is slated to be published next Wednesday.

NTI Analysis

  • Russian Ballistic Missile Models

    May 14, 2014

    This page contains interactive 3D missile models for Russia. 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.

  • Submarine Proliferation Resource Collection

    Oct. 21, 2013

    The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.

Country Profile

Flag of China

China

This article provides an overview of China’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →