Chinese Missile Push Seeks to Counter U.S. Protections, Experts Say

A truck carries a Chinese Dongfeng 31 ICBM to a 2009 military parade rehearsal in Beijing. China is pursuing a capability to equip ICBMs with multiple nuclear warheads, a Chinese state-controlled newspaper said this week (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan).
A truck carries a Chinese Dongfeng 31 ICBM to a 2009 military parade rehearsal in Beijing. China is pursuing a capability to equip ICBMs with multiple nuclear warheads, a Chinese state-controlled newspaper said this week (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan).

Armed forces experts have said a forthcoming line of more sophisticated Chinese long-range ballistic missiles would bolster the nation's capacity to penetrate antimissile measures and send nuclear armaments to U.S. territory, the New York Times reported on Friday.

China is preparing means to place more than a single nuclear bomb onto ICBMs, Beijing's government-run Global Times newspaper said on Wednesday. The journal Jane's Defense Weekly, though, was incorrect in asserting the nation had undertaken a trial launch in July of its developmental Dongfeng 41 missile, according to the Chinese publication.

"The third generation ICBM equipped with multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) is exactly the developing direction" of China's Second Artillery Corps, Chinese armed forces specialist Wei Guoan said to the Global Times.

The strategic missile unit probably lacks the capacity at present to vet an experimental ICBM in every flight phase, Kanwa Defense Review editor Andrei Chang said in a Friday report by the South China Morning Post.

"The challenges and difficulties between the second and third generation of ICBMs are very complicated, and the intelligence I've gathered tells me that China is still incapable of overcoming many problems, even though they have spent more than 20 years to develop it," he said.

Beijing is pursuing an ability to fit an ICBM with up to 10 nuclear explosive devices as well as decoys intended to draw away missile interceptors, the New York Times quoted Larry Wortzel, head of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, as saying.

Wortzel added: “The bigger implication of this is that as they begin to field a force of missiles with multiple warheads, it means everything we assume about the size of their nuclear arsenal becomes wrong.”

He said China had carried out trials in past weeks of submarine-launched missiles with potential to evade U.S. countermeasures.

The Chinese government is faced with a developing U.S. military "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region. The Defense Department was reported this week to be moving to augment its missile defense capacities in the sector.

Steps by Washington and other governments to augment their respective militaries have prompted comparable moves by China, Beijing-based analyst Sun Zhe said.

"We have again and again said that we will not be the first country to use nuclear force,” the expert stated. “We need to be able to defend ourselves, and our main threat, I’m afraid, comes from the United States.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Thursday said that U.S. antimissile operations in the region are focused on the danger posed by North Korea, the Associated Press reported.

"These are defensive systems. They don’t engage unless missiles have been fired," she told reporters. "In the case of Asian systems, they are designed against a missile threat from North Korea. They are not directed at China."

Aug. 24, 2012
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Armed forces experts have said a forthcoming line of more sophisticated Chinese long-range ballistic missiles would bolster the nation's capacity to penetrate antimissile measures and send nuclear armaments to U.S. territory, the New York Times reported on Friday.

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