China submarines soon to carry nukes: US report

China

China appears to be within two years of deploying submarine-launched nuclear weapons, adding a new leg to its nuclear arsenal that should lead to arms-reduction talks, a draft report by a congressionally mandated U.S. commission says.

China in the meantime remains the most threatening power in cyberspace and presents the largest challenge to U.S. supply chain integrity, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in a draft of its 2012 report to the U.S. Congress.

China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to be expanding its nuclear forces, the report said. The others are the United States, Russia, Britain and France. Beijing is on the cusp of attaining a credible nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-dropped nuclear bombs, the report says.

China has had a largely symbolic ballistic missile submarine capability for decades but is only now set to establish a near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent, the draft said. The deployment of such a hard-to-track, submarine-launched †leg of China's nuclear arsenal could have significant consequences in East Asia and beyond. It also could add to tensions between the United States and China, the world's two biggest economies.

Any Chinese effort to ensure a retaliatory capability against a notional U.S. nuclear strike would necessarily affect Indian and Russian perceptions about the potency of their own deterrent capabilities vis--vis China, the report said, for instance.

ARMS CONTROL TALKS URGED

China is party to many major international pacts and regimes regarding nuclear weapons and materials. But it remains outside of key arms limitation and control conventions, such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed in April 2010 and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The United States historically has approached these bilaterally with Russia.

Congress should require the U.S. State Department to spell out current and planned efforts to integrate China into existing and future nuclear arms reduction, limitation, and control discussions and agreements, the draft said.

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