China's Ballistic Missile Threat
Hughes, James H., The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies
The author examines in detail the on-going Chinese build-up of ballistic missile forces, and suggests the potential impact of this build-up on the balance of forces as against, in particular, Taiwan and the United States.
Key Words: China, ballistic missiles, MIRVs, cruise missiles, United States' missile strategy, Taiwan's defense, non-nuclear weapon strategy
Ballistic Missiles as a Key Element in China's Military Transformation
China is building short, intermediate, and long-range ballistic missiles with which it could threaten the United States and numerous other countries. The situation is potentially parallel to that reached in China's relations with Taiwan, when in 1995 and 1996 it was able to threaten Taiwan with ballistic missile "test" firings. There are indications that China's ballistic missile buildup reflects a strategy of using missiles for deep, rapid strikes directed at an opponent's air and naval forces, and at radar, naval, and air bases, without first requiring air superiority.
In contrast to U.S. military strategy, which relies heavily on air power, Chinese missile strategy appears to involve the use of ballistic missiles as a counterforce strike against an opponent's military forces, seizing the initiative and taking advantage of the element of surprise. America's perception of the use of ballistic missiles in a counterforce strike appears limited, reflecting a Cold War context of nuclear-armed ICBMs targeted at missile silos, long-range bomber bases, Trident submarine bases, and command and control centers. But counterforce strategy may be applied to use non-nuclear, accurate ballistic missiles targeted at conventional air and naval forces. Such a strategy would be unusual for the United States, as the U.S. relies predominately on air power and has not encountered a similar strategy since the end of the Cold War.
With the exception of some tactical short-range multiple rocket launchers, the United States uses ballistic missiles only for deterrence. In contrast, China evidently contemplates the use of ballistic missiles both for aggression and deterrence. For example, on March 6, 2000 the PLA (People's Liberation Army) newspaper Liberation Army Daily noted China "is a country that has certain abilities of launching strategic counterattack and the capacity of launching a long-distance strike... It is not a wise move to be at war with a country such as China, a point which the U.S. policymakers know fairly well also."2
China's strategy has resulted in the development of a variety of nonnuclear weapons such as radio-frequency warheads that generate a powerful electromagnetic pulse disabling electronics, computers and radar; and cluster munitions to disable runways and air bases.3 It has developed warheads for penetrating hardened command posts; and warheads using fuel-air explosives that produce three to five times the blast damage of conventional high-explosives, similar to what the United States used in Afghanistan.4 China has, in addition, developed maneuverable warheads for its short-range ballistic missiles to evade ballistic missile interceptors like the Patriot missiles Taiwan has deployed around Taipei. It has reduced the radar signature of its short-range DF-11 and DF-15 ballistic missile warheads to evade detection. It has tested chaff, jammers, and other countermeasures.5
The variety of its warheads combined with its development of accurate missiles has given China a potent arsenal for deep penetration, first strike weapons in conventional warfare. It was would evident that China plans to use its ballistic missiles in tactical military situations - in attacking air and naval forces and bases, not just as terror weapons as seen in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. China is developing the ability to use ballistic missiles to penetrate an opponent's air and missile defenses, weakening an opponent to create a favorable playing field for the rest of its armed forces. This strategy goes beyond what the U.S. has confronted in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, or the Gulf War.
American Assessment of Chinese Strategy
China's ballistic missiles form a key element in its military transformation. By using ballistic missiles accurate to within tens of meters, China can conduct deep, precision strikes without necessarily resorting to nuclear weapons. Its missiles can help achieve a form of blitzkrieg or lightning warfare, striking faster and deeper than tanks or aircraft. Recognizing the importance of ballistic missiles to China's military planning, the CIA's January 2002 report on "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015" noted:
China's leaders calculate that conventionally armed ballistic missiles add a potent new dimension to Chinese military capabilities, and they are committed to continue fielding them at a rapid pace. Beijing's growing SRBM [short-range ballistic missile] force provides China with a military capability that avoids the political and practical constraints associated with the use of nuclear-armed missiles. The latest Chinese SRBMs provide a survivable and effective conventional strike force and expand conventional ballistic missile coverage.6
While the CIA report limits China's military transformation to its short-range ballistic missile forces, or in other words its threat to Taiwan, the observation made by the CIA report in that context may be applied, as well, to its intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles that can reach U.S. forces in the Pacific and the United States. China's intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles give it a military capability that avoids the constraints associated with the use of nuclear-armed missiles.
The June 2000 Department of Defense "Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China" noted that China apparently plans to use its ballistic missiles in an asymmetrical assault directed against Taiwan's airpower. The report noted, "China's SRBMs likely would target air defense installations, airfields, naval bases, C41 [command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence] nodes, and logistics facilities."7 Explaining China's ballistic missile strategy, the report added:
Chinese strategists believe that if a war against a technologically superior foe breaks out, the enemy likely will deploy forces rapidly and then launch a massive air campaign. While the enemy is assembling its forces, there exists a window of opportunity for preemptive attack. This approach - "gaining the initiative by striking first" - is viewed as an effective method to offset or negate the advantages possessed by a more advanced military foe.8
Understood in this way, China's nuclear missile strategy is elegant and aggressive. To respond to a numerically larger nuclear missile deterrent, China plans to threaten a handful of cities of a potential opponent confident that a threat directed against even a small number of cities can deter a western country, and forestall any intervention that may arise over Taiwan.
China's Statements About Its Strategy
This strategy is articulated by the Chinese themselves in August 19999 in a Central Military Commission (CMC) planning document for war against Taiwan, chaired by President Jiang Zemin:
Based on strategic considerations, the CMC has decided to disclose, when appropriate, some information on strategic weaponry so that the U.S. will exercise some caution in decision-making, and be aware that it would have to pay a price if it decided to intervene in a military conflict. The purpose is to prevent the U.S. from being deeply involved even if a war becomes unavoidable so that the losses on both sides of the Taiwan straits will be minimised throughout the war...
So far we have built up the capability for the second and the third nuclear strikes and are fairly confident in fighting a nuclear war. The PCC [Chinese Communist Party] has decided to pass through formal channels this message to the top leaders of the U.S.9
The second paragraph evidently implies a first strike as noted by the Liberation Army Daily. China's capability for second and third strikes are apparently intended to deter an opponent with larger forces. Confirming how China believes its smaller nuclear forces can effectively deter a stronger opponent, in October 2001 one Chinese analyst explained, "It is not necessary for China to seek a nuclear balance with the US. If we have the capacity to launch a nuclear counterattack, there will be no difference between 10 and 10,000 nuclear warheads."10
China's ballistic missiles are apparently not only for deterrence, but make up the tip of its spear. Its ballistic missile buildup would be expected to affect planning by countries intending to build a ballistic missile defense and may believe themselves threatened.
China's Opposition to U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense
Because China's military strategy relies heavily on ballistic missiles, China opposes a U.S. ballistic missile defense. In an interview two days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the authors of Unrestricted Warfare, a PLA textbook, criticized a U.S. ballistic missile defense saying, "September 11, 2001 probably marks the beginning of U.S. decline as a superpower. The attacks demonstrated the U.S. fragility and weakness and showed that, basically, it is unable to withstand attacks. The National Missile Defense system cannot save it."11
It is perhaps a reflection of China's strategy that the September 11 terrorist attacks and war in Afghanistan have drawn attention away from both China's ballistic missile buildup and the United States' ballistic missile defense. Although China has been welcomed for its role in the war against terrorism, not much attention has been given to its role in supporting the Taliban up to September 11.12 Recognizing the likelihood that the United States will deploy a ballistic missile defense, China is developing ways to overcome that defense. These include its buildup of ballistic missiles and its development of MIRVs to saturate a limited defense. In addition, it plans to threaten specific components of the defense. As noted by Sha Zukang, China's top arms control official, China plans to concentrate on a range of relatively low-cost responses to defeat a ballistic missile defense, such as by striking at the radar network and communication nodes that would form the nervous system of the defense.13 He added:
We will do whatever possible to ensure that our security will not be compromised, and we are confident that we can succeed without an arms race. We believe defense itself needs defense. . . . It has many, many parts and most of them are vulnerable to attack.14
China has 20-to-24, or more, CSS-4 ICBMs (other estimates range from 18-26 CSS-4s), also known as the DF-5 or DF-SA, which are capable of reaching the United States. In October 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that China has pointed these missiles at American cities.15
China's CSS-4s may number a total of more than 20-24. As noted by one source, China may be storing additional CSS-4s in tunnels for second or third strikes.16 It is developing MIRVs (Multiple Independently targeted Reentry Vehicles) and decoys that may be retrofitted to existing ICBMs, giving China the ability to attack a larger number of cities or military targets, and to defeat a limited ballistic missile defense.17 In 2001, China moved its 24 CSS-4 ICBMs.18 This could have been for retrofitting them with MIRVs, refurbishing them, giving them improved guidance, or putting them in a new launch location, but the reason was not publicly discussed.
In addition to its CSS-4 ICBMs and latent ability to use Long March space launch vehicles as ICBMs (Long March space launch vehicles were derived from ICBMs), China is building three new types of long-range ballistic missiles: the road-mobile, solid-fuel DF-31 ICBM; the longerrange, solid-fuel road-mobile DF-41 ICBM; and the submarine-launched JL-2 derivative of the DF-31.These new missiles are expected to be accurate, giving China the ability to attack an opponent's air and naval bases, radar, missile silos, and command and control centers.
With its development of accurate ballistic missiles, China has moved to a first strike counterforce capability for its ICBMs, as well as for its short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. It can potentially threaten U.S. bases and forces in the Pacific, and potentially deter intervention to defend Taiwan. China's ballistic missile program may no longer be characterized as only for retaliation or deterrence, but may include a use for aggression.
Testing of Missiles and Reentry Vehicles
These new ICBMs are not just on the drawing board. In August 1999 China flight-tested the DF-31.It may have made a second flight test in June 2000.19 Another, possibly third, flight test may have been conducted in November 2000 during General Henry H. Shelton's visit to China. Then in December 2000 there was still another DF-31 flight test.20 In January 2002, China attempted a flight test of the DF-31 reentry vehicle. Although reports conflict on whether the booster was a space launch vehicle or DF-- 31 and although the missile blew up in mid-flight, the test shows steps are being taken in the DF-31 program.21
Significantly, the January 2002 reentry vehicle flight test was for a MIRV. As noted by some commentators, China sees an expanded ICBM force using MIRVs as key to overcoming a potential ballistic missile defense and maintaining the deterrent value of a smaller force of nuclear missiles. They note that as China adds a MIRV capability, a limited ballistic missile defense designed around North Korea's threat would prove largely ineffective against China.22 In 2002 China evidently stepped up its MIRV testing program.23
The maturity of China's DF-31 ballistic missile program may be seen in the fact that in mid-January 2001 it launched at sea a JL-2 (Ju Lang or "Giant Voice") DF-31 SLBM derivative, thought to be for China's Project 094 nuclear ballistic missile submarine in development at Huludao.24 The test of the JL-2 derivative would indicate the DF-31 is at an advanced stage of development, involving an ability to use the missile in a different mode of deployment - on a submarine - as well as by being carried by road-mobile transporter.
While China's Project 094 ballistic missile submarine has been deferred in favor of its Project 093 nuclear attack submarine, the JL-2 may be deployed on other submarines like its Golf-class diesel submarines, or on ships.25 In October 2001 China conducted a "pop-up" test of the JL-2 from a modified Golf-class submarine, which simulated the firing of a ballistic missile from a submarine, ejecting the missile from a tube.26 In February 2002 it, was reported that China expects to conduct another pop-up test.27
With a range of 8,000 km (about 5,000 miles) the DF-31 can attack the western United States and U.S. forces in the Pacific. The significance of DF-31's threat deserves explanation. Some analysts do not view it as a serious threat because its range is limited to the western United States. However, this overlooks how the DF-31 forms part of China's "Long Wall Project" aimed at U.S. forces in the Pacific.28 As noted by the Taipei Times in May 2001:
The Long Wall Project is aimed at the US, not Taiwan. The Chinese military leadership plans to put longer-range ballistic missiles in the southeastern provinces so that they can cover US military targets in the Pacific...
They can fire, for instance, a Dong Feng-31 at a US navy battle group shortly after the group leaves its base in Hawaii. The Long Wall Project is basically a deterrent against the US' fighting forces in the Pacific ... 29
China's threat of using the DF-31 against naval vessels needs to be treated seriously. This threat would most likely come as a complete surprise to U.S. naval forces as little thought or discussion has been given to the use of ballistic missiles against naval forces at sea or in port - ballistic missiles are often treated as non-precision weapons. However, China is building satellites capable of ocean surveillance and the real-time reconnaissance of naval forces. Its first ocean color surveillance satellite, the Haiyang-I or HY-1 (Haiyang means "ocean"), is expected to be launched by June 2002.30 China has launched the Ziyuan-1 and Ziyuan-2 earth resource satellites, ZY-1 and ZY-2 (Ziyuan means "resource"), believed to be used to spy on foreign military forces. The ZY-2 is believed to have a photographic resolution of nine feet.31
The Taipei Times reported China has built two bases for the DF-31 in its southeastern provinces and plans to build more bases as part of its "Long Wall Project."32 Additional evidence of deployment was reported in September 2001 by the Washington Times. It noted the PLA had begun "crew training" for the DF-31 road-mobile launchers. According to this source, U.S. intelligence detected China's first missile units equipped with DF-31s in July 2001.An operational capability was expected by the end of 2001. In the Washington Times article, an intelligence official admitted, "This is a faster deployment schedule than was expected."34 In February 2002, an analyst noted, "It looks like the Chinese are much further [ahead] than we originally thought."35
China is developing a larger, longer-range road-mobile ICBM, the DF-41 that is expected to be capable of reaching most of the United States, and it will be MIRVed with five to eight nuclear warheads. In testing the DF-41, China is using computer simulations.36 However, as the DF-41 is not as advanced in development as the DF-31, it may be abandoned. China may substitute longer-range versions of the DF-31 in its place.37
China is also building new intermediate-range ballistic missiles such as the DF-21-X and DF-25, which can potentially attack U.S. forces in the Far East and Pacific.38 It is producing CSS-7 (DF-11 or M-11) short-range ballistic missiles, and updating the CSS-6 (DF-15 or M-9) with satellite navigation.39 Its short-range ballistic missiles have been observed to be accurate within 50 meters, and greater accuracies are expected.40 As noted by the CIA report, these ballistic missiles will provide China with "a potent new dimension" of military transformation.41 This transformation may affect its neighbors in the Far East.
By 2001, China had deployed 350-400 short-range ballistic missiles near Taiwan, and was adding 50 missiles a year. In February 2002 it was estimated to have deployed over 400 missiles near Taiwan.42 In March 2001, China increased production of the short-range CSS-7 (DF-11 or M-- 11) by a factory at Yuanan, part of its Sanjiang missile group, about 175 miles west of the provincial capital of Wuhan in Hubei province.43 Intelligence estimates of China adding 50 short-range ballistic missiles a year near Taiwan may correspondingly need to be revised upwards. By 1998, China had deployed fewer than 50 short-range ballistic missiles near Taiwan, but by the end of 1999 this increased to 150 missiles.44 In 2001, the number of missiles jumped to 350-400, which indicates that the estimated addition of 50 missiles a year is only approximate. Part of this jump may have come from the re-deployment of existing missile forces as well as from the production of new missiles.
By using hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles, China could overwhelm Taiwan's Patriot missile defense in a massive salvo. It could attack Taiwan's C41, radar, air defenses, air bases, naval bases, and other military facilities.45 Its 350-400 or more M-9 and M- II short-range ballistic missiles near Taiwan give it the ability to strike a swift, powerful blow. The M-9 (CSS-6 or DF-15) has a range of 360 miles. The M-11 (CSS-7 or DF-11) has a range of 180 miles.46
In December 1999 China was reported to be preparing to deploy hundreds of its new longer-range CSS-7 Mod 2 missiles, which have a range of 300 miles. The new CSS-7 Mod 2s are expected to carry several types of warheads, including high-explosives, cluster bombs, and fuel-air explosives. It could carry small nuclear warheads such as the small Chinese nuclear warhead the CIA believes was built using U.S. technology for the Trident W-88 warhead.47
In March 2001, according to an article in the Washington Times, China is deploying the CSS-7 Mod 2 (M-11 or DF-11) at new bases in the coastal province of Fujian at Xianyou 135 miles from Taiwan, and Yongan 220 miles from Taiwan. Each base is estimated to house a brigade of 16 truck launchers and 97 CSS-7 missiles, and has tunnels - underground bunkers - for storing the missiles.48 A third, older missile base is at Leping, Jiangxi province, 362 miles from Taipei. It houses a brigade of about 100 of the older, longer-range CSS-6 missiles, and is "brigade headquarters" for all PLA ballistic missile units near Taiwan.49
In May 2001 the Taipei Times reported China's deployment of shortrange ballistic missiles in Fujian province at Xienyu (Xianyou), Pingtan, and Lienchen (suggesting more bases).50 In June 2001 the PLA activated a CSS-6 missile training base at Fuzhou, directly across the Taiwan Strait from Taipei.51 In addition, China is developing a maneuverable warhead for the DF-15, making it more difficult for Taiwan to intercept it with Patriot missiles.52
China's buildup of short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles is noteworthy. According to one source, it may build up to 1,000 theater-- class ballistic missiles in the next decade, most of them with a range between 180 and 1,200 miles.53 This would presumably be in addition to its existing arsenal. Another source credits China with having 650 DF-15 (CSS-6 or M-9) missiles and 200 DF-11 (CSS-7 or M-11) missiles, or a total of 850 short-range ballistic missiles as of 2000, not counting other short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.54
The United States has apparently ignored China's ballistic missile buildup. Under President Clinton the United States seemed to downplay the threat. For example, General Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in December 2000 warned about China's growing military capability, omitted mention of China's DF-31 flight test that occurred during his visit to China the month before.55 Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon downplayed that flight test of the DF-31, saying, as reported by the Washington Times in December 2000, 'I don't think its fair to say that this building [the Pentagon] or this government is worried about what they see in China ..."56
This Pentagon spokesman may best describe America's response to China's ballistic missile buildup. The United States is apparently not worried by China's ballistic missile buildup. This lack of concern may be seen in how the United States responded to China's threat in 1995 to use a ballistic missile if it intervened on behalf of Taiwan. As recorded by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, State Department spokesman Glyn Davies seemed to dismiss China's threat, saying:
There is no outstanding nuclear threat against the United States from China, and it's silly to build this up into anything more than it is, which is some low-level official [PLA General Xiong Guangkai] saying something that could perhaps have been interpreted that way, and that was irresponsible to begin with.57
Echoing this downplaying, in 1996 President Clinton used his State of the Union address to claim there were no nuclear missiles pointed at America's children. His claim was apparently based on an unverified promise of targeting that Russia could change in minutes, and did not note China's reported targeting of American cities. If the United States decides to build a ballistic missile defense to counter China's threat, it may need to change its perceptions.58
While the new Bush administration brought with it a perception that the threat is real, its perceptions of a ballistic missile threat apparently do not extend to China. However, CIA Director George Tenet showed an awareness of the relationship between China's growing military and economic power and diplomacy when in February 2002 he testified before Congress, warning that while the September 11 terrorist attacks "changed the context of China's approach" to the United States, they did not change the fundamentals of China's military buildup with an ultimate aim of becoming a great power in East Asia.59
Mr. Tenet also warned that China had increased its operational military skills to deal with possible military action in the Taiwan Strait and to deter the United States from defending Taiwan in case of an attack. He noted Taiwan "remains the focus of China's military modernization program. "He said, "This is aimed not only at Taiwan but also at increasing the risk to the United States itself in any future Taiwan contingency."60 Mr. Tenet added, "China also continues to upgrade and expand the conventional short-range ballistic missile force it has arrayed against Taiwan."61 China called Mr. Tenet's testimony "unreasonable, irresponsible, and unacceptable."62
By comparison to Mr. Tenet's warnings, in February 2002 the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Admiral Thomas Wilson, said in separate testimony to Congress that he was less concerned than a year before about the prospects of a major confrontation between China and Taiwan, even though he noted that China's ability to attack Taiwan will have grown significantly by the end of the decade.63
However, in February 2002 China's Vice-Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing emphasized the importance of Taiwan to China by saying, "The Taiwan question remains the most important and most sensitive issue at the heart of China-U.S. relations, and it concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."64 As alluded to by Mr. Tenet, for four months in 2001 China conducted off Dongshan island the largest military exercises it has ever held, involving 100,000 troops preparing for an invasion of Taiwan's Penghu islands and preparing against potential intervention by the United States.65
The finale of these wargames included a flight test of China's road-- mobile, intermediate-range CSS-2 (DF-3, DF-3A) ballistic missile. While an Air Force intelligence report said several years ago that the CSS-2 is used to target Russia and India, its use in war games preparing for an invasion of Taiwan and to counter U.S. intervention may be an indication of how China plans to use intermediate-range ballistic missiles.66
Adding weight to Mr. Tenet's testimony, in February 2002 veteran China watcher Willy Wo-Lap Lam predicted the PLA will be likely to receive at least as large an increase in military spending as it received in 2001, which was 17.7 percent in a deflationary economy. He further noted that the PLA expects to conduct additional test firings of the DF-31; that more advanced models are under development; and that major strides will be made in aeronautics and space warfare, where research and development is financed by civilian government units.67
Thought Within the United States
In the midst of China's ballistic missile buildup, which has been occurring for over a decade, in February 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell remarked that U.S.-China relations are developing "rather smoothly," while acknowledging that there are areas where China and the United States "decidedly did not see eye to eye," including Taiwan, missile proliferation, and religious freedom.68 Highlighting these differences, in February 2002, in advance of President Bush's visit, China's number-two leader, Li Peng, condemned foreign countries for "interfering" over human rights.69
Within the United States there are different schools of thought in evaluating China's potential military threat. Some commentators and analysts see China's buildup as a threat, correlating it with China's longterm policy, goals, and objectives.
Other analysts, such as Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum in Honolulu, stress the importance of opening and maintaining dialogue with China, and would prefer to debunk the "so-called China threat" theory, even as China begins to deploy a new generation of solid-fuel, mobile ballistic missiles - the DF-31 and J L-2.(70)
Within the Bush administration, the importance of engaging China is apparently emerging as a priority. People are hesitant to discuss the agreement China signed in November 2000 to halt missile-related sales that could help any country deliver nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, since as of February 2002 China apparently has not carried out that accord. But as administration officials point out, tangling with China is far more complex than denouncing Iraq, Iran, or North Korea as an axis of evil.71
The view de-emphasizing China's potential military threat, however, may not give adequate weight to the views expressed by the PLA. For example, PLA General Xiong Guangkai said in September 2001 that the situation in the Taiwan Strait has become "grimmer and more complex" in the past few years, and that "we shall not commit ourselves to giving up the use of military force."72 Reinforcing General Guangkai's viewpoint, the PLA has increased its number of short-range ballistic missiles near Taiwan to over 350-400, is adding new missiles, and is building new bases.73
China's diplomatic maneuvers include Premier Qian Qichen's overtures to Taiwan in January 2002, which seemed to make a conciliatory gesture softening China's position. Qian Qichen's statements, however, were noted by a Taipei Times editorial as "sweet nothings from poisonous lips."74 Another commentator observed that Qian's remarks were part of China's strategy to isolate Taiwan's government, being "laced with a political lexicon with which people in Taiwan are familiar."75 In February 2002, a month after Qian made his speech, China's Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing firmly reiterated China's demand that Taiwan recognize its interpretation of "one-China," indicating Qian Qichen's remarks were meant to win praise in advance of President Bush's visit to China.76
The January 2002 CIA report "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015" deserves careful scrutiny. On the one hand, the CIA report candidly notes the transforming power of China's ballistic missile buildup as adding "a potent new dimension to Chinese military capabilities, and they are committed to continue fielding them at a rapid pace."77 On the other hand, the CIA report "projects an SRBM force in 2005 of several hundred missiles" when China already has deployed more than 350-400 SRBMs against Taiwan, and sources credit it with 850 CSS-6 and CSS-7 SRBMs.
The CIA report may be understating China's buildup by hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles. While the CIA report may have restricted its estimate of SRBMs to the new CSS-7 Mod 2, perhaps because of its improved accuracy, this is not explained, nor is a breakdown presented of the types and numbers of short-range ballistic missiles China has deployed and their rate of production. One Chinese military analyst, Richard Fisher, said the CIA's estimates appeared to be too low.78
Fisher further noted the report's glaring omission of China's progress in developing a land-attack cruise missile.79 While this criticism may be unfair since the CIA report was focused on ballistic missile threats and developments, it justly points out the need for adequate threat assessments incorporating both cruise and ballistic missile developments, whether by the CIA or Department of Defense.
China's development of long-range land-attack cruise missiles is noteworthy, and should be added to a discussion of its growing military power, as seen, for example, in its purchase of Russian SS-N-22 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles acquired with two Russian Sovremennyclass destroyers.80
Even though Mr. Tenet's February 2002 testimony before Congress highlighted the relationship between China and the United States over Taiwan, the January 2002 CIA report did not mention the potential danger of China's buildup of short-range ballistic missiles in accelerating the likelihood of conflict between China and Taiwan.
Problems in the U.S. Evaluation
In evaluating China's ballistic threat against the United States, the CIA report does not mention the capability of the DF-31 for attacking U.S. forces in the Pacific, nor does it note that China is building two bases for the DF-31 and reportedly would have achieved an operational capability by the end of 2001.Instead, the CIA report projects that over the next 15 years "China would have about two dozen shorter range DF-31 and CSS-3ICBMs that could reach parts of the United States."81
The CIA report seems to estimate China's average annual production of DF-31 ICBMs at approximately two per year. Yet the report said China is "committed to fielding them [ballistic missiles] at a rapid pace. "While the report may not have intended to include the DF-31 in this statement, the ommision would seem unusual since China has focused considerable attention on the DF-31, as is apparent from its flight tests and development of the JL-2. In comparison to the CIA's projected production rate of 2 missiles a year, Russia is producing the solid-fuel, road-mobile SS-27 Topol-M at a rate of 6-10 per year. As a technical detail, the CIA report classifies the CSS-3 (DF-4) as an ICBM when other sources classify it as an intermediate-range ballistic missile. However, the CSS-3 with its 3,400mile range is admittedly on the high side for an intermediate-range missile, enabling it to attack U.S. bases in Alaska, Guam, and Diego Garcia.82 (Intermediate-range ballistic missiles can travel across a continent; ICBMs can cross oceans to reach other continents.)
The CIA's classification of the CSS-3 as an ICBM merits further discussion. The CSS-3 has a role in threatening the United States - Alaska and Guam are part of the United States. The CIA classification of the CSS-3 as an ICBM would apparently justify their inclusion in estimates of China's nuclear missile deterrent, commonly reported as 20-24 CSS-4 ICBMs. Estimates of China's nuclear deterrent as consisting of 20-24 CSS-4 ICBMs may understate the arsenal, since the estimates do not include China's 20 CSS-3s.83
The CIA report projects "Beijing could begin deploying the DF-31 follow-on ICBM and JL-2 SLBM in the last half of the decade."84 The CIA estimate appears reasonable for the DF-31 follow-on, which has not been reported as having been tested. However, as the JL-2 has been tested, undergoing pop-up tests from a submarine, its deployment could appear sooner than suggested.
The CIA report claims China's "pursuit of a multiple RV capability for its mobile ICBMs and SLBMs would encounter significant technical hurdles and would be costly," giving an impression that the development of MIRVs for the DF-31 is unlikely or off into the future. But in January 2002 China attempted a DF-31 MIRV flight test. While the test was inconclusive because the booster blew up in mid-flight, it shows that China has progressed on its MIRV program for the DF-31.(85) The CIA report appears to understate China's progress in MIRVs; neither does it suggest how the MIRV used for the DF-31 could presumably be used in its JL-2 derivative.
The CIA report, in addition, does not acknowledge the role China's intermediate range ballistic missiles may play in attacking U.S. forces in the Pacific, neglecting to explain, for example, how the CSS-3 was designed primarily to target U.S. bases in Guam.86 The CIA report, moreover, does not describe China's development of non-nuclear warheads for electromagnetic pulse, attacks on runways, airfields, and hardened command posts, which would assist China in attacking other military forces and bases.
However, CIA National Intelligence Estimates may not always present the best intelligence. For example, the CIA's 1995 National Intelligence Estimate on ballistic missile threats excluded Alaska and Hawaii from its assessment, causing the State of Alaska in 1997 to adopt a resolution in protest, requesting that it be included in every National Intelligence Estimate.87
Another example: On August 24, 1998, General Henry Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to Senator James Inhofe about the Rumsfeld Commission report on the ballistic missile threat to the United States, saying, "After carefully considering the portions of the report available to us, we remain confident that the Intelligence Community can provide the necessary warning of the indigenous development and deployment by a rogue state of an ICBM threat to the United States."88 In addition, in response to the Rumsfeld Commission's finding "that rogue nations could acquire an ICBM capability in a short time, and that the Intelligence Community may not detect it," the general assured the Senator, "We view this as an unlikely development."89
Just one week later, on August 24, 1998, North Korea launched a three-stage ICBM, the Taepo Dong-1, that could reach the United States. This cast doubt on the ability of the Intelligence Community to provide timely warning of ballistic missile threats and developments.
The Current U.S. Direction Toward Ground-Based Missile Defense
It may be thought that China's ballistic missile buildup would affect U.S. military planning and its ballistic missile defense program, especially when the DF-31 is apparently intended for use against U.S. forces in the Pacific. The Bush administration, however, is continuing the ballistic missile defense program of the prior administration, which was focused on meeting the more limited ballistic missile threat from North Korea instead of the larger threat from China.
Rather than build the most effective defense possible, taking advantage of defenses such as the Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor and Space-Based Laser developed under his father's administration, President George W. Bush is continuing the Clinton administration's program for ground-based interceptors. In legislation adopted in 2001 for Fiscal Year 2002, for example, funding for the Space-Based Laser was cut from an administration request of $170 million to $50 million (the program had been well run - this was not a case of poor management, but apparently of political opposition to a space-based defense)."' While this action was initiated by Congress as part of a compromise measure, it seems to show a lack of understanding of the advantages of a space-based defense.91
The failure to focus on building a space-based defense forfeits the numerous advantages a space-based defense has compared to a groundbased defense. A space-based defense, for example, can provide global coverage that could protect U.S. forces in Japan, Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, as well as in Hawaii and Alaska. It can provide a boost-- phase interception capability, which would eliminate the potential threat posed by China's development of MIRVs, maneuverable warheads, reduced radar signatures, chaff, and decoys. A space-based defense will have more opportunities to intercept a missile, starting from the boost phase and continuing through the mid-course phase.
A ground-based ballistic missile defense, in contrast, will have less opportunity to intercept a ballistic missile. It will not provide global coverage; nor will it provide a boost phase interception capability except under rare circumstances. It will be less effective than a space-based defense at defending U.S. forces in the Pacific - the potential threat posed by China's DF-31 ICBM and its and short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Yet President Bush is emphasizing deployment of a ground-based defense even though space-based defenses were shown to be feasible and effective under his father's administration.92 Although in 2002 China's reaction to a U.S. ballistic missile defense has been muted, President Jiang Zemin has seemingly asked his generals to find weaknesses in the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense. As noted by Willy Wo-Lap Lam in February 2002, it is believed China's response is focused on the development of multiple, independently targeted reentry vehicles - MIRVs -, which the CIA report appeared to understate.93
The United States needs to realize China is apparently engaged in a ballistic missile buildup that is aimed at the United States itself as well as at Taiwan. While China's number of long-range ballistic missiles may not equal the U.S. arsenal, the strategy it has adopted for their use is potent and aggressive. Its buildup, moreover, includes short- and intermediaterange ballistic missiles, which may have the potential for attacking U.S. forces in the Far East and Pacific. China's ballistic missile buildup should be expected to affect U.S. plans for a ballistic missile defense.
' Congressman Floyd D. Spence, "China in the Ascendancy," National Security Report, Vol. 2, No. 2, May 2000, p. 2.
' Richard D. Fisher, Jr., China Increases Its Missile Forces While Opposing U.S. Missile Defense (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 1268, April 7, 1999), p. 8.
4 Richard J. Newman, "The Chinese Sharpen Their Options," AIR FORCE Magazine, October 2001, p. 59.
National Intelligence Council (CIA), Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015, January 2002, p. 10.
' Department of Defense, Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, June 2000, p. 17.
"Ibid., p. 8.
y Document of the Central Military Commission (OCMC), Serial No. 65, August 10, 1999, pp- I.
,'.China Prepares for War," InsightMag.com, downloaded May 2000: http://www.insightmag.com/archive/200003057.shiml.
... Wu Zichen, "China's twisted road to coexistence," Asia Times Online (with Heartland), October 13, 2001.
" J. R. Nyquist, "China Supports bin Laden And The Taliban," Financial Sense.com, October 10, 2001.
"2 John Pomfret, "China Strengthens Ties With Taliban by Signing Economic Deal," Washington Post, September 13, 2001. Also: K. J. M. Varma, "China assisting us in war against US: Taliban commander," hindustantimes.com, October 22, 2001.
13 Michael R. Gordon, "China Looks to Foil U.S. Missile Defense System," New York Times, April 29, 2001.
"PTI, "China will continue to target US Cities," hindustantimes.com, October 23, 2001.
Yang Zhen, "China's Nuclear Arsenal," National University of Singapore, March 16, 1996.
17 Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Op. Cit., pp. 4-6.
" Complied by Bill Gertz, "China modernizing its ICBM forces," Geostrategy- Direct.com, May 8,2001.
" Bill Gertz, The China Threat (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2000), pp. 182-184. Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Op. Cit., p. 4. Bill Gertz, Betrayal (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1999), pp. 94-95.
:' Possible Third Flight Test: "US `Expects Mainland Missile Test,"' South China Morning Post, June 8, 2000."US Forces Beefing Up Surveillance on China Missile Test: Report," China Times, June 7, 2000.
Third and Fourth Flight Tests: Francesco Sisci, "China's Missile Test a Warning to U.S.," Straits Times, December 14, 2000.CNA, "MND Aware of Mainland China's ICBM Testing," December 13, 2000.Bill Gertz, "Pentagon confirms China's missile test," Washington Times, December 13, 2000.Bill Gertz, "China runs 2nd test of long-range missile," Washington Tines, December 12, 2000.
21 "China Tests Shield-Busting Missile, Report," CNN.com, February 5, 2002. Space Launch Vehicle used for test of DF-31 reentry vehicle: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, "Failed DF-31 test," Inside the Ring, Washington Times, January 4, 2002.
2' Oliver August, "Chinese test new missile threat to US shield," The Times (UK), February 12, 2002.
24 A. D. Baker III, "World Navies in Review," Vol. 127, No. 3, March 2001, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, pp. 32-45.
26 Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, "China tests JL-2," Inside the Ring, November 2, 2001.Also: "China carries out `pop-up' test of submarine-launched JL-2 missile," GeostrategyDirect.com, December 4, 2001.
r Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, "Chinese sub test," Inside the Ring, February 1, 20(11:
Brian IUu, "China builds new missile platforms to deter US forces," Taipei Tows, May 7, 2001. 29hid
" Wei Long, "Ambitious Space Effort Challenges China In Next Five Years," SpaceDaily.com, September 18, 2001.
" "China's Spacecraft," Space Today Online - Chinese Satellites and Spacecraft, downloaded December 2001.
3 Brian Hsu, "China builds new missile platforms to deter US forces," Taipei Times, May 7, 2001.
Bill Gertz, "Rumsfeld says missiles proof of China's global ambitions," Washington Times, September 7, 2001.Bill Gertz, "China Ready to Deploy its First Mobile ICBMs," Washington Tintes, September 6, 2001.
"Oliver August, Op. Cit.
"CNA, "Beijing Simulates Long-Range Missile Launch: Report," October 15,1999.
Willy Wo-Lap Lam, "China's Military Set for Budget Boost," CNN.com, February 8, 2002.Bill Gertz, "Report upgrades China's threat as a nuclear power," Washington Tintes, January 11, 2002.
' Jack Spencer, The Ballistic Missile Threat Handbook (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2000), pp. 24-27.
"Richard J. Newman, Op. Cit., pp. 58-6l.Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Op. Cit., p. 7.
`Richard J. Newman, Op. Cit., pp. 58-61.Brian Hsu, "M-class missile's bark worse than bite: military," Taipei Times, August 16, 2000.
" National Intelligence Council (CIA), Op. Cit., p. 10.
42 Liu Kuan-teh, "Beware Beijing's military threat," Taipei Times, February 16, 2002.
Bill Gertz, "China beefs up missile stocks," Washington Times, March 27, 2001.CNA, "China Deploying over 400 Missiles Opposite Taiwan," August 8, 2000. Nadia Tsao, "US underestimates China's threat," Taipei Times, July 21, 2000.
44 Bill Gertz, "China adding missiles aimed toward Taiwan," the Washington Times, February 5, 2001.
45 Department of Defense, Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, June 22, 2000, p. 8-10.
" Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Op. Cit., pp. 4-6. Also: Federation of American Scientists Website, updated July 28, 2000. Jack Spencer, Op. Cit., pp. 24-25.
"Bill Gertz, "China Targets Taiwan with 2nd Missile Base," the Washington Times, December 8, 1999.
' Bill Gertz, "China places second missile base near Taiwan," the Washington Times, March 15, 2001.Bill Gertz, "China Targets Taiwan with 2nd Missile Base," the Washington Times, December 8, 1999.
Also: CNA, "China Deploying over 400 Missiles Opposite Taiwan: Report," China Times Inter[ etive, August 9, 2000.
Bill Gertz, "China places second missile base near Taiwan," the Washington Times, March 15, 2001.Bill Gertz, "China Targets Taiwan with 2nd Missile Base," the Washington Times, December 8,1999.
" Brian Hsu, "China builds new missile platforms to deter US forces," Taipei Times, May 7, 2001.
"AM Gi Hertz, "Chinese missile moves near Taimn worry U.S.," the WaskiVm nina, June 7,2(101.
51R ard J. Newman,Dp. Cit., p. 59.
54 Jackk Spencer, Op. Cit, pp. 24-25.
" Bill Gertz, "Gen. Shelton sees China as growing threat to U.S.," Washington Times, December 15, 2000.
56 Bill Gertz, "Pentagon confirms China's missile test," Washington Times, December 13, 2000.
57 Bill Gertz, Betrayal, Op. Cit., p. 91.
5' Letter from Congressman Bob Schaffer to General Henry ft. Shelton, October 7, 1998. Also: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, "Williams moves on," Inside the Ring, May 25, 2001.
"Charles Snyder, "CIA director warns US of China threat," Taipei Tr-mes, February 8, 2002.
- 11 Ibid.
ez AFP, "Beijing Slams CIA Chiefs Warning on Chinese Ambitions," Taiwan Security Research, February 10, 2002.
" Charles Snyder, "CIA director warns US of China threat," Taipei Tin:es, February 8, 2002.
" Xinhua News, "Taiwan at Heart of Sino-US Relations," Taiwan Security Research, February 6, 2002.
65 AFP, "PLA Flexes its Muscle with Joint Exercises," Taiwan Security Research, August 22, 2001.
6 Bill Gertz, "China Tests Missile in War-Game Finale," Washington Times, August 24, 2001.
17 Willy Wo-Lap Lam, "China's Military Set for Budget Boost," CNN.com, February 8, 2002.
66 AFP, "US-China Relations Going `Rather Smoothly': Powell," Taiwan Security Research, February 6, 2002.
' AFP, "China's Li Peng Slams Foreign 'Interfering' over Human Rights," Taiwan Security Research, February 11, 2002.
" Ralph A. Cossa and Bonnie Glasser, "What should Bush say in Beijing?," Taipei Tin:es, February 11, 2002.
" David E. Sanger, "China Is Treated More Gently Than North Korea for Same Sin," New York Times, Taiwan Security Research, February 21, 2002.
72 AFP, "PLA Chief Warns on Strait Meddling," Taiwan Security Research, September 12, 2001.
77 Bill Gertz, "China Increases Missile Threat," Washington Times, August 28, 2001. ""Editorial: Sweet nothings from poisonous lips," Taipei Times, January 26, 2002. Also: "A question of interpretation," Asia Times Online, January 29, 2002.
"Tung Li-wen, "China's new propaganda strategy," Taipei lies, February 9, 2002. 7'"Charles Snyder, "Taiwan at top of Sino-US agenda," Taipei Tintes, February 6, 2002.
"National Intelligence Council (CIA), Op. Cit., p. 10.
' Bill Gertz, "Report upgrades China's threat as a nuclear power," Washington Times, January 11, 2002.
" Bill Gertz, "China Tests Supersonic Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles," Washington Times, September 25, 2001.
s National Intelligence Council (CIA), Op. Cit., p. 9. "Jack Spencer, Op. Cit., p. 24.
" [bid., p. 24.
x' National Intelligence Council (CIA), Op. Cit., p. 9.
' Jack Spencer, Op. Cit., p. 24. Major Mark A. Stokes, USAF, China's Strategic Modernization: Implications for the United States, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, September 1999, p. 87.
" Senate Joint Resolution 30, "Defense of Alaska from Nuclear Attack," adopted by the Alaska Senate on May 6, 1997 and the Alaska House on May 11, 1997.
' Letter from Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Senator James M. Inhofe, August 24, 1998.
" Jeremy Singer, "Pentagon Begins Dismantling Space Laser Program," Space News, January 7, 2002, p. 8. LockheedMartin, "DismantlingoflFX.doc," January 2002.
91 Congressman Bob Schaffer, letter to Bob Stump, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, October 4, 2001; Congressional Record, Extension of Remarks, "Regarding the $400 Million Stripped from the Defense Authorization Bill," October 4, 2001; letter to Jerry Lewis, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, December 13, 2001; letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, December 13, 2001; letter to President George W. Bush (signed by other members of Congress), December 19, 2001.
92 Missile Defense Study Team, chaired by Ambassador Henry F. Cooper, Defending America: A Near - and Long-Term Plan to Deploy Missile Defenses (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 1995).
' Willy Wo-Lap Lam, "China Plays Waiting Game with U.S.," CNN.com, February 13, 2002.
James H. Hughes1
1 Correspondence to: Jamhhughes@aol.com.…
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Publication information: Article title: China's Ballistic Missile Threat. Contributors: Hughes, James H. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies. Volume: 27. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2002. Page number: 3+. © Council for Social and Economic Studies Winter 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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