Intelligence Report Sees China Greatly Increasing Missile Force

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Gertz

China is building up its strategic missile force by converting silo missiles to road-mobile ICBMs, as North Korea, Iran, Iraq continue work on long-range strike weapons, a U.S. intelligence report released yesterday says.

"The intelligence community projects that Chinese ballistic missile forces will increase several-fold by 2015," the National Intelligence Council, an interagency analysis group based at CIA headquarters, stated in an annual assessment.

The unclassified report said the future Chinese ballistic missile force "deployed primarily against the United States" will number around 75 to 100 warheads and will be smaller than either U.S. or Russian strategic arsenals.

The report also said North Korea appears to be preparing for a flight test of its long-range Taepo Dong-2 missile, "which is capable of reaching parts of the United States with a nuclear weapon-sized . . . payload" of several hundred pounds.

There is a danger some nations could fire short- or medium-range ballistic missiles or cruise missiles from ships close to U.S. coasts, the report says.

"Most U.S. intelligence community agencies project that during the next 15 years the United States most likely will face [intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM] threat from North Korea, Iran and possibly Iraq, . . . in addition to the strategic forces of Russia and China," the report said.

The report was issued in response to requests from the Senate Intelligence Committee to produce annual threat assessments.

It was made public weeks after President Bush announced the United States' intention to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia as part of efforts to build strategic missile defenses.

A U.S. intelligence official said the report, similar to an earlier national intelligence estimate, was made public as a reminder "that the threat from ballistic missiles remains and continues to grow. …