Report Upgrades China's Threat as a Nuclear Power

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

Report Upgrades China's Threat as a Nuclear Power


Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Bill Gertz

China easily could put multiple warheads on its current missile force but would face problems adding more than one warhead on its three new mobile ICBMs, according to a new intelligence report.

The National Intelligence Council's estimate of future missile threats, made public Wednesday, said China "has had the capability to develop and deploy a multiple re-entry system for many years, including a MIRV system." MIRV stands for multiple, independently targeted re-entry vehicle - the term for modern multi-warhead missiles.

The current force of some 20 CSS-4 long-range missiles currently has large single warheads and could be upgraded with multiple warheads "in a few years," the report said.

According to the report, China's intercontinental ballistic missile force over the next 15 years will range from 75 to 100 warheads "deployed primarily against the United States."

Chinese Embassy spokesman Xie Feng said he did not know the basis for the CIA report.

"The purpose of China developing nuclear weapons is simply for self-defense," he said.

Mr. Xie said China has a policy of not being the first to use nuclear weapons and of not using nuclear arms against non-nuclear states.

"It is a fact known to all that China has the smallest arsenal of all nuclear powers," he said.

Adding more warheads to the new single-warhead Dong Feng-31, a longer-range version of the DF-31 and the submarine-based JL-2, would be harder. The report said the Chinese would face technical hurdles and additional costs for boosting the number of deployed strategic warheads.

"MIRVing and missile defense countermeasures would be factors in the ultimate size of the force," the report said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi dismissed the CIA report on China's strategic warhead buildup as "baseless speculation."

"China will increase its defense power based on its own needs," Mr. Sun said.

Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military with the Jamestown Foundation, said the government's estimates appear too low. …

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