Monday, October 5, 2009

China's Nuclear Commander Vows Buildup

Defense News


China's Nuclear Commander Vows Buildup

By Wendell Minnick

Taipei - The commander of China's strategic missile and nuclear force has vowed to strengthen its nuclear and conventional missile capabilities.

The proclamation was made by Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, commander of the Second Artillery Corps, in an article co-authored with the Corps' political commissar, Gen. Peng Xiaofeng. The article appeared in the Feb. 1 edition of the state-run Qiushi [Seeking Truth] Journal (#496), which is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee.

The article read like old-school Communist rhetoric.

"We must always strive to use the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and arm our minds, and unswervingly implement the Party Central Committee and Central Military Commission and President Hu's [Jintao] decision-making instructions for their strategic missile force firmly casting eternal soul," the article said.

Most of the article rehashes the history of the Second Artillery Corps, name-drops important Chinese leaders who helped in the corps' evolution and raves about the outstanding performance of the corps' troops.

However, the Qiushi article has invoked a rash of media reports touting China's intent to expand its nuclear and conventional missile arsenal.

"We should deepen the Second Artillery Corps of innovation in military theory, strengthen the use of strategic deterrent and nuclear operations forces," it reads. The authors also called for better training programs and improved combat systems.

Despite the media hype, the comments largely ape the defense white paper released by China in January.

"Most of Jing's quotes closely follow the text of the white paper, and thus add little, though coming in Qiushi, his comments gain the weight of Party authority," said John Lewis, author of the book, "Imagined Enemies: China Prepares for Uncertain War."

"U.S. military experts are not especially concerned about growth in the size of the Chinese nuclear arsenal," said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute.

What concerns U.S. defense circles is the increasingly flexibility and accuracy of China's ballistic missile arsenal, including the introduction of mobile launchers, maneuvering warheads, improved target sensors, and command and control, Thompson said.

"The various improvements to Chinese missile forces means they will be better suited for actual war fighting, for example by targeting U.S. aircraft carriers," he said.

China has been developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), but the goal may be beyond its reach. The problems a Chinese ASBM face include targeting and maneuverability, a capability beyond the U.S. military.

The missile, dubbed the Dong Feng 21C (East Wind), is to be based on the road-mobile, 2,500-kilometer Dong Feng 21 medium-range ballistic missile. The development of the missile is part of China's anti-access strategy designed to restrain U.S. aircraft carriers from drawing too close to Taiwan waters during a war. The strategy would force aircraft carriers to keep a safer distance and thus render aircraft sorties useless.