The Chinese Nuclear Buildup

China’s disturbing new nuclear buildup
When it comes to China’s ongoing military buildup, most attention is paid to the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) conventional forces, that is, fighter jets, submarines, armored vehicles, precision-guided munitions, and the like. The nuclear side of this buildup is almost totally ignored – and yet what is happening here is equally disturbing.
DF-26 missiles appear in the Sept 3 parade in Beijin
DF-26 missiles appear at a Beijing parade in this file photo
For China, “going nuclear” was major achievement. Beijing detonated its first atomic (fission-type) bomb in 1964, followed by the test of a thermonuclear (fusion-type) device three years later. Given the relatively backward state of China’s defense science and technology base, these feats, along with the launching of China’s first satellite in 1970, were a source of considerable national pride.
Despite the success of its “two bombs and one satellite,” Beijing faced the problem of what to do with its new-founded nuclear capability. It could not hope to match the nuclear forces of the United States or the USSR in terms of quantity or quality. Nevertheless, there had to be a strong strategic rationale for possessing – and possibly using – nuclear weapons.
Minimum deterrence
Out of this conundrum came the doctrine of “minimum deterrence.” According the minimum deterrence, China need only possess a nuclear force capable of surviving and retaliating to an enemy’s first strike, thereby making the cost of attacking too high in the first place. This meant a limited but durable second-strike nuclear force that would deter nuclear blackmail and also be compatible with the defensive-oriented doctrine of People’s War.
Consequently, for most of its existence, China’s nuclear force was small, typically on low alert, and dedicated to a no-first-use policy. Responsibility for China’s nuclear weapons was placed under the Second Artillery Corps, which also controlled all the country’s land-based ballistic missile systems, both nuclear and conventionally armed.
Starting in the early 1990s, under the leadership of Jiang Zemin, Beijing has further refined this policy, to one of “dynamic minimum deterrence,” with an additional stress on sufficiency and effectiveness. Nuclear forces were still limited in size, but increased emphasis was on the survivability and reliability of these forces. This was to ensure that China would still be able to inflict a damaging retaliatory second strike.
It also meant that China had the means to threaten the use of nuclear weapons in order to prevent regional conflicts from spiraling into something far bigger and far worse. This was in keeping with Beijing’s long-held aim of “winning without fighting.”
Building the Triad…
China’s Second Artillery – its nuclear weapons, coupled with an assortment of surface-to-surface missile systems – was for a long time one of the few “pockets of excellence” in the Chinese military. Until recently, however, it was relatively small – no more than two dozen long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), based in silos.
Moreover, these ICBMs were liquid-propellant (taking several hours to fuel) and highly inaccurate (which was still sufficient for striking counter-value targets, such as cities).
These forces were complemented by a limited number of medium bombers (licensed-produced versions of the Soviet Tu-16, an aircraft dating back to the 1950s) and a single Xia-class nuclear submarine (SSBN) – a vessel so noisy and so unreliable as to never be fully operational.
At the most, China was believed to possess 250 nuclear weapons overall, making it one of the smallest nuclear powers in the world.
Like the country’s conventional forces, however, China’s nuclear arsenal has seen a dramatic expansion and modernization. Over the past 20 years or so, the land-based deterrent has grown to around 50 or 60 missiles, mostly road-mobile (and therefore more survivable) solid-fueled DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs. Moreover, many of these missiles are deployed with multiple warheads (MIRVs), increasing their number of likely targets.
On top of this, China possesses at least 1500 intermediate- and medium-range ballistic missiles (such as the DF-21 and, eventually, the DF-26) and land-attack cruise missiles. Most of these missile systems are for conventional strike, but they could have strategic purposes. The DF-26, for example, with its 3000- to 5000-kilometer range, has been dubbed the “Guam killer,” due to its theoretical ability to hit this heavily militarized US-owned island.
China has also finally deployed a functional SSBN, the Jin-class Type-094. At least four of these boats have been launched, each armed with a dozen JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
Last but not least, the PLA recently announced that it was developing a new long-range strategic bomber. This aircraft would almost certainly be stealthy and nuclear-capable. China, therefore, is close to perfecting an air-sea-land nuclear triad, similar to the United States’ and Russia’s.
…But to what purpose?
“Technology push” has certainly prompted China to build better and more strategic weapons – that is, a broad range of delivery systems, cruise missiles, MIRVing of systems, etc. – resulting in a cache of 500 nuclear weapons (and growing). But having so many nuclear weapons starts to look like a first-strike capability, thereby undermining the whole idea of “minimum deterrence”? The question, therefore, is what does Beijing plan to do with this growing and increasingly sophisticated nuclear arsenal?
Compounding this concern are two other developments. First, China has recently reorganized its missile forces, replacing the Second Artillery Corps with a new “Strategic Rocket Forces.” Details are sketchy, but new SRF, which is under the direct command of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, may have unprecedented authority over all three legs of the emerging Chinese nuclear triad (land-based missiles, bombers, and SLBMs). This is a new, as yet untested wrinkle in China’s command and control over nuclear weapons.
Second, the technological advances in Chinese long-range conventional strike capabilities – including cruise missiles, precision-guided ballistic missiles, and perhaps even hypersonic weapons – raises the issue of whether China has even less need for nuclear weapons. Again, the lack of transparency surrounding China’s nuclear force raises more reservations about what Beijing actually wants to do with these weapons.
In and of themselves, Chinese nuclear forces are not necessarily worrisome, and no one is asking China to leave the “nuclear club.” But given the twin buildups in the country’s conventional and nuclear forces, coupled with a general atmosphere of policy opaqueness coming out of Beijing, it is permissible to be concerned about Chinese motives.
Richard A. Bitzinger is a Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Program at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The opinions expressed here are his own.
(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Risk of Nuclear War is Greater Than Ever

Former Secretary of Defense explains why we now have greatest threat of nuclear war ever

Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, how safe is America, or the world, from nuclear catastrophe? Not very.

That’s the gloomy message from former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who has spent the past quarter-century focused on reducing the risk of nuclear disaster.

Part of the risk, of course, is there are now many more groups intent on inflicting mass destruction that we saw in the Sept. 11 attacks. But the seemingly old-fashion risk, that of a nuclear confrontation between nuclear powers like the United States or Russia, has not gone away either.

Another reason for concern: America and its closest nuclear competitors — Russia, China, India and others — are locked in an arms race intent on developing better, faster, more destructive weapons. In the U.S. defense officials have already warned Congress that they will need enormous sums, up to $450 billion over 20 years, and more beyond that, to overhaul America’s aging and still-dominant nuclear arsenal. That means requests for new bombers, new subs and new missiles.

This all comes at the tail-end of a presidency that began, back in 2009, with an April speech in Prague in which President Barack Obama promised to work toward a nuclear-free world.

Why do you say that we’re now at greater risk of nuclear disaster than ever?

It’s been true for a good many years, we just haven’t understood that. … To understand why I say that, I have to break it down into categories of what a catastrophe might be.

The one we think of most is another nuclear holocaust. We think of the danger that we had during the Cold War of a nuclear holocaust. That danger is returning. It’s returning because of the continually worsening relations with Russia. But it’s not as bad as it was during the Cold War — yet. So I don’t mean to suggest the nuclear war is more likely than it was during the Cold War though it is more likely than it is thought to be.

In the meantime, we’ve got two new dangers that did not exist in the Cold War. One of them is the risk of a nuclear terrorist and the other is that of a regional nuclear war. For example, between India and Pakistan.

When you add those two into the equation, then the danger of some nuclear catastrophe becomes greater.

With regard to the risk of nuclear terrorism, is it simply because there are more people in the world who wish us harm? Or, has nuclear technology changed in a way that makes it easier to accomplish such an attack?

Both of those are true. The first is due to the rise over the last few decades of radical jihadism. We’ve faced terror groups for a good many decades. But typically, they would conduct terror instances to make a point and draw attention to themselves. They were not out for mass killings. When 9/11 occurred, we realized, we are now confronted with something different.

In the case of Al Qaeda, they were out to kill as many Americans as they could. The number on 9/11 happened to be a few thousand. We also know, they had a project trying to get a nuclear bomb, which happily they did not succeed in. The first and most important point is, there are now terror groups practicing radical jihadism who are out to kill vast numbers of Americans in the thousands or hundreds of tens of thousands instead of just a few dozen. That’s new. That’s just developed in the last several decades.

What also is new is that the access to fissile material has probably increased in the last few decades. More countries now have nuclear weapons. With the access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan and North Korea for example, that opens up more avenues by which a terrorist could get the fissile material by which he could make a bomb. And maybe even get a bomb itself.

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991, a year ahead of Bill Clinton taking office. You were his defense secretary. You said then that your top priority was to track down thousands of nukes – the so-called loose nukes problem — in the former Soviet republics. Did you succeed?

Besides Russia, which had the capability of taking care of those weapons adequately, there were now nuclear weapons and a good many nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine. In total, there were several thousand nuclear weapons. These were not under any adequate control. That was my top priority when I became secretary. That problem had arisen a year earlier than that.

We got rid of all of those. Every one of them. All of those nuclear weapons were dismantled … and in fact, that uranium is being used in American reactors through General Electric.

What has happened since then?

Since then India and Pakistan have built nuclear arsenals and North Korea has built a nuclear arsenal. Iran has had a nuclear program, which fortunately was short-stopped before it got to a nuclear arsenal.

But that presents many more opportunities for a terror group to get access, if not to a bomb itself, at least the fissile material from which they could perhaps make a bomb. It’s much more dangerous now, because of the proliferation to those countries, particularly to Pakistan and North Korea, the ones I worry most about.

Specifically, what threat do these new national arsenals pose?

The more (nukes) there are in the world, the harder it is to keep track of for sure. But I worry about some countries more than others. I worry about Pakistan because we know there are within the Pakistani military, you might say renegade groups, who owe an allegiance to radical jihad and not to the government.

To this point, the government has kept that under control, but that is a particular danger that doesn’t exist in other countries. In the case of North Korea, the danger is, this is a country that for a number of reasons, not the least the sanctions we imposed on them, is desperately poor. They might try to sell their fissile material or even bombs if somebody can pay them enough for it.

There are two very different dangers there, but they’re both very real.

In the early decades of the Cold War, we heard a lot about so-called tactical nuclear weapons. We are hearing more about that now, again. Can you talk about that?

I am very much concerned about that. The idea that you can use a little bit of nuclear weapons, as a small-yield nuclear weapon, and contain it at that point, is extremely dangerous. Nobody that I know of, no government that I know of, has a credible strategy for preventing the escalations for a full-scale nuclear war. Any use of nuclear weapons has a very high danger of escalating to full use of nuclear weapons…

Many of these tactical nuclear weapons have the yield of the Hiroshima bomb. It’s a confusing point to really refer to them as tactical when you consider the enormous damage they do. Even the lower-yield ones can do an enormous amount of damage.

This is a very dangerous idea. I’m very much opposed to the use of tactical weapons, most importantly to a policy by which we might purport to use tactical nuclear weapons, on the unproven theory that they would not escalate to a major war.

How did the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons — raised again during the George W. Bush administration — first gain traction?

I’m sorry to say the United States was the one who really introduced the idea of tactical nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, we were confronted in Europe from the Soviet Union that had about three times the size of the conventional military forces that we did.

As we thought, they had aggressive ambitions. Therefore, we believed our NATO forces would be swept right back to the Channel if the Russian forces moved in. We developed tactical nuclear weapons and we deployed them in Europe and we had a policy that if the Soviet Union attacked in Germany, we would use them…

We no longer have a policy of using tactical nuclear weapons to defend Europe…

When I was the Undersecretary of Defense in the late ’70s, my primary focus was developing a set of conventional weapons, stealth and precision munitions and precision reconnaissance systems so that our conventional forces, even though smaller than those of the Soviet Union would be able to adequately defend without nuclear weapons.

That program was successful and the demonstrations are successful of the program was made in Iraq, where those new highly effective conventional weapons in three or four days time defeated quite a large and well-equipped army, the Iraq Army.

So we have long since abandoned this policy ourselves. But the really bad news is that today Russia seems to have embraced a policy of using tactical nuclear weapons for that same purpose. If they feel their conventional forces are inferior or being overwhelmed by opposing forces, they would then use tactical nuclear forces to offset the other side’s damage.

President Obama has recently proposed a massive overhauling of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. What does he have in mind? Does it make sense to you?

As long as Russia is adopting belligerent and aggressive policies in Europe against our allies, in which they see nuclear weapons as a part of that policy, then we have to maintain a strong deterrence…

So we will have some modernization program. I’m questioning the nature of the program. I do not think we should simply reproduce what we did during the Cold War, because that was 30 or 40 years ago when you conceived, designed and built other weapons and a lot has changed since then.

What do you make of the nuclear threat with North Korea?

We had an opportunity, I believe, to stop the North Korean nuclear program before they built an arsenal. That was back in 1999 and 2000…. [But] During the time of [George W.] Bush’s presidency, they developed a nuclear weapon capability and actually tested a couple of nuclear weapons. In the last eight years under President Obama, they’ve tested more nuclear weapons and started building an arsenal.

I don’t think we’re going to be able to get an agreement now. It was one thing getting them to agree not to build an arsenal, but it’s a much, much harder task to get them to agree to give up an arsenal they all ready have.

This Q&A was conducted, edited and condensed by Dallas Morning News editorial board member Michael Lindenberger. Email:

Babylon Prepares For Nuclear War

Hundreds of troops train in nuclear bomb scenario

Friday, August 26th 2016, 10:47 am MDTFriday, August 26th 2016, 11:17 am MDT

Hundreds of troops from across the country trained on Fort Hood early Friday morning to prepare in the event of a nuclear explosion.

“It’s important to train for this because, while this seems something out of our nightmare, this is a potential threat that we could possibly have to respond to. In an event like this, this could potentially be America’s worst day,” Staff Sgt. Steven Cushman with Joint Task Force Civil Support said.
The troops pretended a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb had gone off in Houston. A bomb of that magnitude could destroy buildings, kill hundreds and injure thousands more. The radiation is another problem.
“There is going to be a lot of contaminants in the air and a lot of contamination people are going to come in contact with,” Cushman said.

Joint Task Force Civil Support organizers gave troops several search-and-rescue missions, like saving a person dangling from a building or someone stuck under debris.

“What we did was…we had a block that was laying literally on our victim. We had to go ahead and find a way uniquely to keep the victim from getting further crushed without that block rolling back to create further damage,” Christopher Acevedo with the 92nd Engineer Battalion in Fort Stewart, GA, said.

Acevedo said it’s not a run-of-the-mill training.

“It’s not easy. It requires a lot of you, physically, mentally. It requires you to be focused. It requires you to work as a team,” he said.

As part of the training, dozens of people dressed up as victims of the nuclear explosion. Many of them wore torn-up clothing and fake blood.

One of the biggest concerns after a nuclear explosion is dealing with what officials call “mass-casualty decontamination.”

“There’s a process that’s very serious and very involved that’s trained to standard to take survivors that have been exposed to radiation to decontaminate them,” Lt. Col. Steve Kolouch, Commander of the 62nd Engineer Battalion in Fort Hood, said.

Those survivors were taken to a decontamination tent, where they were stripped of their clothes and washed down.

Friday’s training was part of a bigger six-day training. It’s a training Kolouch said prepares troops to save lives and mitigate suffering.

“If called upon for this mission, it’s going to be a serious day for America,” he said. “It makes it real for the soldiers, real for the leaders to know that what we’re training for is important enough for us to get it right.”

Copyright 2016 KXXV. All rights reserved.

Nuclear War Is Very Near (Revelation 15)


The first female president of the United States faces her first major international conflict: Seeking to consolidate the Slavic nations of Eastern Europe, Russia has seized the three Baltic states—Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia—all members of NATO. That requires a response beyond just a caustic tweet or sharply worded press release. For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, there is serious talk of nuclear war.

This is the basis of 2017 War with Russia, the unsettling new book by General Sir Richard Shirreff, who retired in 2014 as NATO’s deputy supreme commander of Europe, as well as its highest-ranking British officer. Although 2017 is technically a novel, this “future history” is really just a war game on the printed page, its preoccupations much closer to those of von Clausewitz and Churchill than those of Woolf or Wordsworth. Shirreff’s book is subtitled “An urgent warning from senior military command,” and he makes plain in his introduction that the novel’s primary intention is to convey the urgency of containing Russian President Vladimir Putin. He likens today’s Mother Russia to Germany in the late 1930s, when it seized the Sudetenland in brazen contravention of established borders. War-weary Europe let the matter slide, hoping that talk of a Thousand Year Reich was just bluster.

“I’m worried, very worried, that we’re sleepwalking into something absolutely catastrophic,” Shirreff tells me, speaking on a Friday evening from his home in Hampshire, in the bucolic country outside of London. A graduate of Oxford who served in the British army, with deployments in the Middle East and the Balkans, he is not a natural writer, so the judgment of the Financial Times—that this is a “literary disaster”—is not as stinging as it might otherwise be, since that same review praised Shirreff’s grim geopolitical vision as one of “profound importance.” 2017 is an unabashedly didactic work, a real-life warning with the bold-faced names changed

The novel opens with the Russians staging an attack on a school in Donetsk, the breakaway region of the Ukraine controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014. Close to 100 children are killed, and Ukrainian forces are blamed, thus giving the Russians the perfect pretext for further aggression. Russia used a similar ploy—the bombing of several apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999—to begin the first Chechen War. But let’s not give Putin too much credit: He likely learned the tactic from Hitler, who was probably behind the Reichstag fire of 1933, which allowed the Nazis to eliminate political opponents before moving on to more grandiose aims.

The Ukrainian operation is only the start. Putin—his identity is very lightly disguised by Shirreff, as is that of Hillary Clinton, though he says she wasn’t necessarily his model for the American president—has his eyes on the Baltics, which Russia has long regarded as its birthright. The Kremlin is bolstered by a conviction that Western Europe and the United States will do anything to avoid the use of force. “The West may have great economic capability, but they think only of social welfare,” one Kremlin adviser says in 2017. “They have forgotten to stand up for themselves.”

When I spoke to Shirreff, he lamented the ease with which Russia invaded both Georgia (2008) and the Ukraine (2014). “That was a slick, very professionally executed operation,” he says of the conquest of Crimea, one that Putin may well try to replicate in the Baltics, given how little genuine resistance he encountered from the West two years ago. “Russia despises weakness and respects strength,” Shirreff tells me. It’s no accident that, every few months, the nation goes agog over images of Putin, stolid and shirtless, wrestling a bear or cuddling with a Siberian tiger.

Until a few weeks ago, most American readers of 2017 would not have thought twice about the preface by James Stavridis, the now-retired American admiral who served as the NATO Supreme Commander of Europe. But in July, media outlets reported that Stavridis was being seriously considered by Clinton as her vice presidential candidate. If he is to serve as an advisory role in her presidency, his view of Russia would be useful. And as presented here, that view is utterly unambiguous: “Of all the challenges America faces on the geopolitical scene in the second decade of the 21st century, the most dangerous is the resurgence of Russia under President Putin.” When Mitt Romney said as much during his 2012 presidential bid, he was mocked for stoking anachronistic Cold War fears. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” President Obama said glibly of Romney’s warning.

But the 1980s actually saw the rise of nuclear disarmament, as well as a broader thawing of Russo-American relations. This moment, the one we live in, feels closer to the 1960s, with American missile defense shields rising in the former Soviet bloc countries of Romania and Poland, as well as military exercises that seem like preparations for the real deal. Annoyed by such exercises in Eastern Europe conducted by NATO, a Kremlin senior official put the matter as bluntly as one of Shirreff’s characters: “If NATO initiates an encroachment—against a nuclear power like ourselves—it will be punished.” This kind of bluster could easily have come from the Kremlin of Khrushchev, as both sides prepared for mutual assured destruction.

I spoke to Shirreff just days after hackers universally believed to be associated with the Kremlin broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, a breach the director of national intelligence called “a version of war” (though he also tried to temper suggestions that Russia was at fault). Donald Trump openly encouraged further such incursions, as long they helped his quest for the White House.

When I first spoke with Shirreff, he declined to comment on Trump’s overtures to the Kremlin, but by the next morning, he’d changed his mind and sent me an email that said, in part: “What could suit Putin better than to embarrass the Democrats and so propel into the White House a candidate who has undermined NATO’s doctrine of collective defence by raising questions over America’s willingness to support an ally if attacked?” He was referring to Trump’s suggestion that the United States would not come to the aid of NATO allies who hadn’t made the requisite defense expenditures.

It is far more likely, according to most projections, that the next president will be Clinton, a longtime foe of Putin who has shown a willingness to use American force abroad. Shirreff believes that nuclear war with Russia is a possibility: Kaliningrad, a region of Russia that borders the Baltic States, now serves as a growing repository for both conventional and nuclear weapons, including Iskander missile systems that have nuclear capability and a range of 300 miles. These could be fired at the West—and will be, if Putin finds Russia’s borders with Europe threatened. Of course, if he invades the Baltics, such a counterattack would be required by the “collective defense” doctrine of the North Atlantic Treaty, known as Article 5. “If NATO goes to war with Russia,” Shirreff says, “that means nuclear war.”

His solution is paradoxical: a show of strength and unity by NATO that would discourage any offensive moves on Russia’s part, so that NATO’s strength would never be tested. In other words, frighten Russia into acceptable, rational-actor behavior. Shirreff adds that Trump is “absolutely right” about many European nations failing to meet their financial obligations to NATO, even if the failed casino magnate couched his criticism in undue threats about abandoning treaty commitments. “Europe needs to step up to the mark,” Shirreff says.

He also says the West needs to commit once more to a dialogue with Russia. That’s made harder by the fact that Russia is always sensitive to lectures from the West, resentful about perceived condescension from Europe and the U.S. Still, stony silence is unlikely to bring a resolution. “Communication” is what Shirreff hopes for, not war. “But it’s gotta be backed up by strength.”

The Upcoming Pakistan-India Nuclear War

Kashmir Violence Raises Alarms of Possible War Between Nuclear Powers

The outbreak of war over the contested territory would be nothing new for India and Pakistan, but the two rival nations now possess considerable nuclear arsenals.

The disputed Indian-occupied territories of Kashmir and Jammu have erupted into a scene of violence and chaos resulting in the deaths of at least 47 people and over 5,000 injuries after protests first broke out on July 9, the day after prominent Islamic leader Burhan Wani was killed in a gun battle with Indian forces inciting sectarian anger.

Residents of the majority Muslim territory blame Indian armed forces for committing atrocities during street protests using pellet guns that marred and disfigured many demonstrators.

“We encourage all sides to make efforts to find a peaceful solution to this,” US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “We have obviously seen reports of the clashes between protesters and Indian forces in Kashmir. And we’re, of course, concerned by the violence, as you might expect we would be.”

While the US State Department urges calm and a de-escalation of tensions many fear that India and Pakistan are on a crash course for a renewal of bloody clashes over the territory with even residents of Kashmir considering their ties to India a historic mistake brought about by negligent British map makers.

The history of India’s control over the territory dates back to the bloody partition of the subcontinent in 1947 that left over one million dead when British viceroy Lord Mountbatten tried to orchestrate an exodus of Muslims and Hindus into specifically designated areas – Hindus and Sikhs would inhabit India while Muslims would inhabit the new country of Pakistan.

The territories were not cleanly drawn at the time, however, with Pakistan split into East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan – one country divided by over 1,000 miles of India’s territory. Among the most questionable territorial splits was the granting of Kashmir and Jammu to India even though the area is dominated by Islam with 2/3 of its inhabitants adhering to the faith both at the time and in the present.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has aspirations to correct what he considers a historical wronging of the Muslim faith having called on the people of Kashmir to rise up and demonstrate with Pakistan’s flags only intensifying clashes with Indian authorities.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh places the blame solely at the feet of Nawaz Sharif saying “Pakistan has been playing an irresponsible role, it should not claim to be the protector of Muslims,” before the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament)

“Whatever is happening is completely Pakistan-sponsored. The name is Pakistan, but all its actions are napaak,” he said using a Hindi term meaning “piss.”

Although India was contemplated as a primarily Hindu nation, a belief espoused by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country maintains a substantial Muslim minority of 138,188,240 people or roughly 13.4% of India’s total population.

Data released in 2011 by the regional government of Jammu and Kashmir stated that since 1990, 43,460 people have been killed in fighting between India and Pakistan over the territory including 21,323 militants, 13,226 civilians killed by militants, 3,642 civilians killed by security forces, and 5,369 policemen killed by militants.

Tensions between India and Pakistan are particularly worrisome for international observers who note that both governments possess roughly 120 nuclear warheads each making the potential for war over Kashmir and Jammu the leading world danger for the outbreak of nuclear warfare.

The Asian Nuclear Horns of Prophecy (Daniel 8)

Countering the Rogue Nuclear Triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea

By arming countries in China’s periphery, India could undermine the security system Beijing has so ruthlessly installed to further its goal of domination.

North Korea’s fifth underground nuclear test, when it happens sometime later this year, will occasion dread and set off the usual flutter of apprehension in the West. With this, the perception will grow of the bomb affording vulnerable states near absolute security in a complex international threat system, and leading to the spread of nuclear weapons and the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Treaty-based nuclear order. Leading the charge in dismantling the NPT system is the rogue nuclear triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea, which has left its footprint in the major hot spots of the world (Iran, Iraq, Libya). But, curiously, far from suffering any retribution, these states have individually benefitted from their proliferation activity. This may be because, with China at its core and Pakistan, the US’s perennial “frontline state”, in the mix, Washington is disinclined to exercise forceful actions, fearing unpredictable outcomes. The reluctance may also be because the US and many European countries had a role in establishing the triad, and now find it impolitic to acknowledge the menace they created, let alone deal with it.

The fact is, triadic arrangements to clandestinely transfer nuclear materials, technology and expertise have been the disruptive means in the nuclear age to strengthen strategic partners, unsettle adversaries, cultivate diplomatic and military leverage, maintain regional balance and otherwise to influence international politics. By permitting states more fluidly to share resources, responsibility, executable actions and to dissipate external pressure, such schemes – quasi-military alliances actually – are flexible, historically proven instruments to achieve large strategic goals. Participation in nuclear triads, moreover, allows states to maximise their mischief value and to pursue risky policies under the protective cover of the principal state – China, in the present case.

The precursor triads

Nuclear proliferation occurred early in the Cold War on a bilateral basis as part of the intra-bloc capacity-building of allies. In many cases, the dyads grew into triads involving states in ideological or strategic sync. In the 1950s, the US separately assisted the UK and then France to become nuclear weapon states. Post the 1956 Suez Crisis, the US and France helped nuclearise Israel, resulting in a jointly-designed French-Israeli nuclear device being tested in the Algerian desert in 1959. Then, in a sort of nuclear daisy chain, under the US aegis, Israel provided erstwhile white-ruled South Africa with nuclear weapon capability. In the new century, considerations of economical use of resources led to a revamped US-UK-France cooperative scheme to share nuclear weapons research and development expertise and infrastructure, as well as to cut modernisation costs. Thus British scientists from the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston utilised the 2006 Anglo-French ‘Teutates Project’ to configure the original B-76 design given to the UK by the US in 1980 into the new B-76-1 Mk-4 nuclear bomb/warhead capable of taking out hardened targets, a design approved by Sandia nuclear weapons laboratories in March 2011 before, presumably, going into production.
A similar Cold War intra-bloc dynamic prompted the Soviet Union to seed China’s nuclear military program until the ideological rift between the two Communist countries in the mid-fifties led to the abrupt termination of Russian technical assistance. But by then having mastered the relevant science and technologies, China tested an implosive fission device in 1964 and, three years later, a thermonuclear bomb, thereby securing itself against both the Soviet Union and the US. Bolstered by the rapprochement with the US in the early seventies, China cast its sights wider. Appositely, Washington’s myopic, “realpolitik”-infused policies of the Nixon era to nurture the ‘China card’ to use against the Soviet Union allowed China to rapidly become a global manufacturing base, a trading powerhouse, a wealthy economy and a burgeoning military power to eventually surface as a peer competitor and great power rival to the US.

China’s military advancement is recognisably the skew factor. It was also in the early 1970s that Pakistan, afflicted by terminal insecurity aggravated by the 1971 war that saw India midwife an independent Bangladesh, approached China for seminal nuclear assistance. India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974, a much delayed realisation of the weapons threshold reached in March 1964, subsequently offered Pakistan a justification. China jumped at the opportunity to permanently hobble India, its natural Asian rival, and contain it to the subcontinent by arming Pakistan with nuclear missiles. This proliferation began in the era when India was regarded by Washington as a Soviet stooge, a perception cemented by the 1971 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation that deterred potential armed interventions by the US and/or China to forestall the Indian dismemberment of Pakistan. Beijing compensated for the 1971 lapse in their “all weather friendship” by transferring nuclear goods and expertise to Islamabad and vetted a Pakistani-designed nuclear device and tested it at the Lop Nor site in 1990.

Meanwhile, Washington was incentivised to do nothing about Pakistan’s nuclear empowerment by General Zia ul-Haq’s 1979 deal permitting the US Central Intelligence Agency to use Pakistani territory and resources to wage an asymmetric guerrilla campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. What is not as well known is Pakistan paying back China with sensitive Western technologies. The blueprints for the individual vertical centrifuge and for the centrifuge cascades at the Urenco plant at Almelo in the Netherlands purloined by A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani-origin metallurgist working at the Urenco plant, became the initial currency for technology barter. In exchange for Chinese nuclear weapons design, relevant materials and bomb-making expertise, Pakistan offered advanced centrifuge technology to China, facilitating its switchover from the costly, clunky and obsolete gaseous diffusion enrichment stream it was stuck in. With a view to help China reverse-engineer and incorporate into its aerial combat platforms the latest technical advancements, Pakistan allowed Chinese aviation experts to scrutinise and study the US F-16 aircraft inducted into its air force. More recently, a Tomahawk long-range cruise missile fired from an American warship in the Arabian Sea at a Taliban target in Afghanistan that crash-landed in Pakistan, and the remains of the high-tech stealth rotors of the helicopter that crashed in Abbottabad during the 2011 US SEAL operation to take out Osama bin Laden, were passed on by Pakistan to China. That Washington never took umbrage at these Pakistani leaks of its technologies suggests the China-Pakistan-US (CPUS) collusion is still on. Moreover, the CPUS triad was established in the late 1970s, around the time the US and Israel were materially assisting the apartheid regime in Pretoria to acquire nuclear weapons . It undercut any Western moral outrage and criticism of Beijing’s policy of nuclear missile arming both an unstable Islamic state, Pakistan, and, subsequently, a reckless regime in North Korea, which ended up forming in the 1990s the full-blown rogue nuclear triad of China, Pakistan and North Korea.
The nuclear rogues: dependent on China and the West’s denial

Whether the CPUS triad should be considered rogue depends on how one views the China-Pakistan-North Korea triangle. If one is rogue the other is too because they are joined at the hip. Just how deeply Washington is engaged in the CPUS trilateral can be gauged from how the US government still propagates the fiction that the “nuclear Walmart” that sold sensitive nuclear technologies for cash to Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and Muammar Gaddafi-ruled Libya, and as payment-in-kind to North Korea, was a commercial venture run illegally and exclusively by Khan to enrich himself, when actually it was from the beginning a well-oiled Pakistan army-run operation. The Pakistan-North Korea nexus, in turn, was forged at China’s behest as a convenient route for Beijing to proliferate nuclear weapon and missile technologies to these countries. Specifically, Pakistan-produced centrifuges were traded for North Korean missiles and technologies transferred by China to Pyongyang. It is the established pattern of remote Chinese proliferation. This triad has since grown into a complex web of strategic interlinks.

Ruled by the mercurial Kim family, North Korea has all along been the triad’s ace card to keep the US and its Asian allies off-kilter, and give China the advantage. An absolute dependency of China, the Kim Jon-un dispensation precipitates strategic crises with South Korea, Japan and the US at will, or at Beijing’s prompting. China then inserts itself into a downward spiralling situation as the intermediary able to hammer sense into a supposedly risk-acceptant Pyongyang, to prevent a tense situation with Seoul and/or Tokyo and/or Washington from becoming worse. It earns Beijing grudging respect and even a measure of goodwill from the US, Japan and South Korea as a situation stabiliser. In comparison, Pakistan is too constrained by its traditional links to the US and the West to be as useful to China, but its pugnacity keeps India distracted. With two able and willing nuclear conspirators, Beijing keeps the geopolitical pot simmering at the two ends of Asia, enhancing its diplomatic stock as the indispensable middleman and peacekeeper in the Korean Peninsula and potentially in South Asia.

While some aspects of the dyadic activities of the China-Pakistan-North Korea combo have come to light, the dots have seemingly not been connected by the US or any other Western government, or even by Japan and South Korea. If they have indeed noted the growing nuclear association between the three outliers, they have abstained from even acknowledging the problem, other than to complain about Pyongyang’s provocations. The fact is the three rogue countries act in concert to advance their separate politico-strategic interests. Consider the separate stakes of these nuclear rogue states. China is at the core of this cabal responsible for almost all nuclear proliferation in the world since 1975. “Deng Xiaoping’s China apparently decided”, writes Thomas C. Reed, a one-time nuclear weapon designer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and former US Secretary for the Air Force, “to actively promote nuclear proliferation within the Third World [because] it would be in [its] best interest to accept, or even encourage, multiple nuclear events (or wars)” to thus keep the US and the West on tenterhooks. China has achieved this aim. Nuclearising Pakistan and North Korea has endowed it with the capacity, moreover, to manipulate regional and Asian power balances at the expense of India, Japan and the US, and to simultaneously blunt the strategic edge of the three countries whose getting together China fears. In this triad China’s all-round heft affords protective cover to its lesser partners.
Pakistan prizes nuclear weapons because they help it to emulate the 19th century English satirist William Makepeace Thackeray’s frog blowing itself up to ox-size. It enables Islamaba to remain relevant in the Islamic world, and in the subcontinental, Asian and global politics, gain some international traction and negotiating leverage for itself, and, by the by, dissuade a conventional military-wise superior India from taking liberties with it. But it is North Korea – the true outlaw state – that is the lynchpin. It has apparently no qualms and no interest in adhering to the rules of the road, or following established norms, or entering the international mainstream. Backed by Beijing’s unwavering support, Pyongyang exploits its pariah status to the fullest to create havoc when and where it can. Kim Jong-un’s devil-may-care attitude means the crisis North Korea periodically triggers to needle the US, frighten its Asian allies and raise China’s value as mediator, also offers Pakistan opportunities to sharpen, under Chinese expert guidance, its nuclear weapons designing and production skills and competencies, and to test its designs.

How the Pakistan-North Korea tandem – the active part of the triad – functions was evidenced in the fourth North Korean test explosion of a Pakistani crafted fusion-boosted fission (FBF) device on January 3, 2016. Preparations for it, such as the digging of an angled L-shaped tunnel in the Hamyongg Mountains, began at least three years prior to the event. Several aspects were of note: the similarities between the instrumentation bunkers at Pungyye and Pakistan’s Ras Koh nuclear testing complex; the presence of South Asian-looking men in Pyongyang and the possibility that these were Pakistani nuclear technicians readying the nuclear device for testing; the Chinese vetting of the design, and its transportation along with the fusion fuel – tritium, and highly-enriched uranium needed for the FBF device – by road across the mountainous border from the adjoining Jiangsu province to the test site in northwestern North Korea to minimise the chances of detection. The open-ended nuclear tests in North Korea of Pakistani-designed weapons under Chinese supervision offer Beijing the means of controlling the nuclear skill levels of its partners just so this issue does not end up hurting its own interests, while enabling Islamabad’s nuclear weaponeers to validate their advanced designs without Pakistan having to conduct tests on its own territory and facing the prospect of damaging Western economic and other sanctions. Throughout this process of explosive testing, Pakistan and China are insulated from its consequences, even as North Korea, immune to economic bans and prohibitions, has its reputation as a budding nuclear weapon state burnished, gaining for the Kim Jong-un dispensation the freedom from fear of an external attack or externally-induced regime change.

Pyongyang’s nuclear antics precipitate crises that heighten Beijing’s clout and enhance the confidence of the Pakistani nuclear weapons complex. The pattern is for North Korea to fire off a missile, conduct a nuclear test, or create a rumpus in the demilitarised zone and threaten to incinerate Seoul, Tokyo, or Manhattan. The targeted countries get agitated and mull an appropriate action, but ere a collective response can jell China, in its “responsible state”/stakeholder avatar joins Washington in calling for restraint, reins in its client state, leading to military de-escalation of a nascent conflictual situation and a Beijing, allergic to destabilising the current, diplomatically useful regime in Pyongyang, ensures Kim Jong-un stays on.

Such crises only deepen the mystery about how North Korea – a dirt poor, pre-industrial country with a subsistence agrarian economy and no science and technology infrastructure worth the name – has progressed inside of 20 years from the basic fission weapon stage and conventionally-armed missiles to, in 2016, testing a boosted fission nuclear device, launching a three stage rocket with an engine that can propel missiles intercontinental distances and miniaturising nuclear warheads. The literature on the Chinese policy of nuclear weaponising North Korea is meagre. There is no dearth of news reports and commentaries, however, along the lines of a nuclearised North Korea requiring Western help to avoid an implosion with potentially disastrous consequences for the region. It is a view Beijing would like to see gather steam in American policy circles in order to revive the “six party talks” that could lead to a negotiated outcome that will see the US sharing with China the costs of pacifying the mercurial Kim Jong-un regime.

Strangely, westerners permitted access to the closed North Korean system far from being informative, end up supporting the Chinese line that Beijing has little or no influence on the North Korean nuclear programme. Thus Siegfried S. Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the main US nuclear weapons designing centre, who has visited Pyongyang’s secretive nuclear programme, said after his 2010 trip, that North Korea’s progress in the uranium enrichment field was due to Pakistan’s help with centrifuges, and raised the spectre of Pyongyang emerging as an autonomous nuclear proliferator. It is again the sort of worry the North Korean dictator and Beijing would like to see kindled in order to strengthen Pyongyang’s negotiating hand in future talks with Washington, whenever these happen. Around the time Kim Jong-un was threatening nuclear attacks on Seoul in April 2013, Hecker returned from another North Korean trip and, once again, was off on a tangent, this time referring to North Korean capability-shortfalls in centrifuge enrichment, while avoiding any mention of China’s role in that country’s advancement in the nuclear weapons sphere. Perhaps, deliberately ignoring China’s role, he wrongly asserted that nuclear warhead miniaturisation was beyond Pyongyang’s ken. Two years later, Hecker, who claims to have visited North Korea seven times and the Yongbyon nuclear complex four times, astoundingly absolved China of all responsibility for the North Korean nuclear program growing “from having the option for a bomb in 2003, to having a handful of bombs five years later, to having an expanding nuclear arsenal now”, saying flatly that “Chinese experts did not have access to Yongbyon”. In the meantime, the US military’s assessment of North Korean strategic capabilities was increasingly less sanguine. Testifying before the US House Armed Services Committee in October 2015, heads of the US Pacific Command and US Northern Command declared that North Korea can hurl missiles with miniaturised warheads at US targets and is “the greatest threat”, directly contradicting Hecker’s 2013 estimate of North Korea’s warhead miniaturising capability. In the event, the conclusion India should reasonably reach is that China, through the North Korean channel, has managed to transmit the warhead-miniaturising skills and capability both to Pakistan’s strategic plans division, to inject credibility into its tactical nuclear missile-based deterrence, and to Pyongyang.

Bending over backwards to not implicate China in Pakistan and North Korea’s nuclearisation and assigning benign motives to Beijing’s policies despite its reckless nuclear proliferation track record is something that has been correctly ascribed to Henry Kissinger’s awe of China, which has since been institutionalised, congealing into a Washington foreign policy blind spot. But it does not explain why, some 25 years after the termination of the Cold War and a decade since China’s emergence as a military rival and economic peer competitor to the US, Washington continues to coddle China – the Frankensteinian monster it created as a Cold War ploy. A powerful China now wants to construct its own world order on the ruins of the existing NPT system. Whence, Kim Jong-un is stimulated to carry on with his confrontationist tactics to maximise its own peace-keeping value and Pakistan is encouraged to keep the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) talks at the UN Commission on Disarmament in Geneva gummed up, because Beijing is unconvinced the FMCT serves its security interests. Diplomatically it is all gain and no pain for China, notwithstanding accusations by informed commentators that the US government is reinforcing “the worst tendencies in Beijing by inadvertently creating a set of perverse incentives”.

Fostering North Korea and Pakistan as nuclear security threats and helping to deal with the contingencies they create firms up the perception that no regional or international issue of war or peace can be resolved without China’s goodwill and involvement. It allows Beijing to condition its help in tackling the crises its rogue clients precipitate on the US terminating its arms sales to Taiwan, and to carry on freely with aiding and abetting the clandestine efforts of non-weaponised nuclear aspirant states, such as Iran. As a strategy, it has helped China to decisively turn regional and international affairs to its advantage. The failure of Washington and the US’ Asian allies to recognise and react to China’s running with the hares and hunting with the hounds policy, and to accept Beijing as the source of nuclear security problems and an inalienable part of their solution, is doubly evident. China is thus nicely placed, unique in its ability to simultaneously undermine the global system, strengthen its own relative position, and to exploit the privileges and manoeuvring room it enjoys as a near great power and a Non-Proliferation Treaty-recognised nuclear weapons state to pursue its narrow national interests without regard for the common good.

A triadic counter

With Washington uneasy about doing anything other than skirting around Beijing’s culpability for creating nuclear flashpoints, Asian countries directly in the line of fire have to wonder if US President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” does not amount to doing nothing and whether the natural follow-on to this isn’t Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s view that because the US cannot, in any case, afford to protect Japan and South Korea, they would be better off procuring nuclear weapons of their own for security? In the event, is it now time to begin assembling a counter-triad of India, Japan and South Korea to take the fight to China? This is the drastic solution for the dire security situation they face, to function in an overt-covert concert to replicate for China the touch-trigger situation Beijing has created for them by arming countries in China’s periphery, such as Vietnam, with nuclear missiles and other strategic armaments.
Such a counter-triad would right the distribution of power long tilted in Beijing’s favour and strategically roil the security situation for the Asian behemoth in the manner India, Japan and South Korea have been discommoded by China and its nuclear henchmen, Pakistan and North Korea, and will be in line with the US policy of strategic partner capacity building. It is a strategy to compel Beijing, as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer put it, to “share the [nuclear] nightmare”. Such a response has become urgent with the news that China may be upping the ante by transferring wherewithal to help Islamabad and Pyongyang configure full-fledged thermonuclear armaments and ICBMs. Unless the game is turned around, and harsh payback and high costs imposed on Beijing, China will persist with its policy of targeted nuclear proliferation to undermine its adversaries.

India’s situation is in every respect more worrisome and, should Tokyo and Seoul be pressured by Washington and otherwise have reservations about participating in a counter-triad to blunt China’s aggression, New Delhi should prosecute its own policy of selectively providing strategic technologies to an assertive Hanoi, which has time and again shown the mettle to stand up to China. India is aware of China’s responsibility for equipping Pakistan with nuclear missiles, and concerned about Islamabad’s role in using the North Korean nuclear tests to improve its “boosted fission” weapon- and, eventually, hydrogen bomb-making skills. The time for payback is nigh. A platform exists for the transfer of expertise to Vietnam – the 2003 India-Vietnam civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. It was augmented in 2009 by the defence cooperation accord and in May 2015 further enhanced by the ‘joint vision statement’ envisaging a comprehensive upgrade in relations. In line with its new “Act East” thrust of policy, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government has finally agreed to sell to Vietnam the indigenous Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. It is another matter that New Delhi is yet to dispatch them to Hanoi.

It is possible that Washington’s reluctance to call out China in a more forceful manner on nuclear proliferation is inducing caution in New Delhi. The other factor that may be acting as a dampener on an aggressive Indian policy towards Southeast Asian countries inclined to stand up to Chinese bullying is the potentially adverse reaction of the US, which the Modi regime is particularly mindful of. Will Washington react with its usual mindless nonproliferation zeal, or look the other way, which it has repeatedly done in the past? In this respect, notwithstanding the US government’s consistent opposition to India resuming nuclear tests and acquiring credible thermonuclear armaments to achieve at least notional strategic parity with China, the fact is such a development serves US strategic interests. The chances, however, are Washington will stay with its longstanding “Kissingerian” policy of currying favour with Beijing in the hope of constituting a global G-2 order with the US and China at the apex, permitting the CPUS triad to covertly “balance” a nuclear India with a nuclear Pakistan in South Asia, and to bind a worried Japan and North Korea more closely to America by keeping alive the bogey of a crazy nuclearised North Korea.

Japan and South Korea may ultimately be restrained by Washington. But a determined and resolute India that knows its interests and is intent on equalising the strategic correlation of forces in Asia cannot be stopped from strategically undermining by any and all means the security system China has over the years so ruthlessly installed to further its goal of domination. The policy of empowering its Asian friends may win New Delhi some genuine respect in the world. Then again, Beijing is, perhaps, banking on the proven timidity and diffidence of Indian rulers to escape the actions of a justly vengeful India (and an Asian counter-triad). The question, therefore, is whether the Indian government will be disruptive for a change in order to permanently reduce China strategically – a big enough goal for New Delhi to temper its risk-averse habit of mind.

Bharat Karnad is senior fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and author, among other books, of Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security, India’s Nuclear Policy and, most recently, of Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet).

China Extends Its Nuclear Horn Into The Seas

South China Sea air strips’ main role is ‘to defend Hainan nuclear submarine base’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2016, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2016, 1:53pm

China’s underwater military strategy in the South China Sea, which remained concealed for the past two decades, suddenly emerged after an international tribunal rejected most of Beijing’s territorial claims in the hotly contested waters.

On July 12 – the same day the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague announced that China’s claims over the resource-rich and strategically vital South China Sea region had no legal basis – a photograph of China’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarine was “leaked” and published on many mainland military websites.

The photograph, revealing the expanded type 094A “Jin-class” submarine, led to speculation that the vessel might be capable of delivering China’s new generation, intercontinental-range ballistic missile, the JL-3, whose estimated range of 12,000km would enabling it to reach the United States from the South China Sea.

The first photo of China’s type 094A strategic nuclear submarine, an improved version of the type 094 submarine, which was posted online on July 12, the day South China Sea ruling was announced in the Hague. Photo: SCMP PicturesThe first photo of China’s type 094A strategic nuclear submarine, an improved version of the type 094 submarine, which was posted online on July 12, the day South China Sea ruling was announced in the Hague. Photo: SCMP Pictures

“I believe the type 094A, which has been closely monitored by the US, was deliberately ‘leaked’ to warn the US,” Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the South China Morning Post.

On Monday Admiral Wu Shengli, of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, told visiting US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson in Beijing that China would not compromise its sovereignty and would press ahead with construction of facilities in the South China Sea.
Wu also warned that “the Chinese navy is fully prepared to cope with military provocation.”
As Beijing’s state media repeatedly attacked the ruling of the tribunal – which Beijing has refused to recognise – President Xi Jinping said that China’s “territorial sovereignty and marine rights” in the seas would not be affected.
China and US in silent fight for supremacy beneath waves of South China Sea
The South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest trade routes, through which more than US$5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year between the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean.
However, Beijing has another – arguably more important – reason for prizing the 3.5 million square km area of waterway. It regards the waterway as crucial for providing its expanded submarine fleet, stationed the Yulin naval base in Hainan, with unrestricted access to the waters of Pacific Ocean.
Admiral Wu Shengli, right, commander of the PLA Navy, points out the layout of the Chinese Naval Headquarters to Admiral John Richardson, left, the US Chief of Naval Operations, during a visit to Beijing . Photo: EPA

The East China Sea has only a few, narrow underwater channels, which means its submarines can easily be monitored. But the South China Sea features underground submarine facilities with a tunnel access, shielding Chinese submarines that enter the South China Sea from the prying eyes of US reconnaissance satellites.

China will keep pushing ahead with its maritime ambitions in the South China Sea because it regards it as a ‘fortress’ that will enable its military expansion

“No matter what the international arbitration rulings said, China will keep pushing ahead with its maritime ambitions in the South China Sea because it regards it as a ‘fortress’ that will enable its military expansion,” Beijing-based military commentator Song Zhongping told the Sunday Post.
“The South China Sea provides the only route for China to establish itself as a real maritime power.
The area has several underwater channels and straits, which will allow China’s submarine fleet to break through the United States’ first and second island-chain blockades, which have been attempting to keep China’s maritime forces contained in Asia.

“That’s why Beijing carefully chose [to centre] its naval and submarine headquarters in Hainan province many years ago.”

China declared a U-shaped nine-dash line, which includes 80 per cent of the area of the South China Sea, in 1953, with James Shoal, located about 80km off the coast Malaysia’s Sarawak state, at the bottom. Before 2000, Beijing builtAsia’s biggest nuclear-powered submarines base in Yulin, Hainan’s southernmost port.

Song said that in the past the US had tried to form two lines to contain China at sea. The first, shaped like a fishing hook, ran from the Russian controlled Kuril Islands south towards the Philippines and then westwards past the coasts of Brunei and Malaysia before curling up towards Vietnam in the South China Sea. The second line was further from the Chinese coast, running south from Japan towards the eastern most islands of Indonesia.

Beijing believed these two lines targeted socialist countries in the area that were aligned with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Chinese military believed the US turned its focus on Beijing.

In June, the British-based IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that state-owned China State Shipbuilding had proposed constructing a sonar surveillance system, nicknamed the “underwater great wall” project, featuring a network of ship and submarine surface sensors that could significantly erode the undersea warfare advantage of US submarines to help Beijing control the South China Sea.
Hague ruling on South China Sea must not fuel Asia’s arms race

Ashley Townshend, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said China’s underwater network and facilities on Woody Island and other artificial islands were aimed at enhancing Chinese navy’s control of the South China Sea.

“If China can use its military installations in the South China Sea to defend its submarines from air, sea, underwater, and outer space threats – a very big if – it may succeed in turning [the waterway] into a bastion for its nuclear-armed submarines,” he said.

Even mainland naval experts have acknowledged that the airstrips and other defence facilities on the artificial islands in the Spratly Islands are part of efforts to expand Yulin naval base’s power over the South China Sea , which includes the 2,000m-deep Bashi Channel.
To challenge freedom of navigation of US aircraft carriers and submarines that protect them interferes with some key national security concerns for the US
However, the waterway also serves as an important thoroughfare for US naval vessels from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean region, said Alexander Neill, a Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia.
“US aircraft carriers regularly transit the South China Sea on their way to operations in the Middle East,” he said. “So to challenge freedom of navigation of US aircraft carriers and submarines that protect them interferes with some key national security concerns for the US as well as active operations.

“Chinese submarine deployments in the Spratly Islands would defeat the purpose of stealth, and expose them to further detection by the US. Given that China is placing some of its strategic nuclear deterrent on submarines, this is a risky proposition … Submarine deployments in the Spratlys could also be used as part of China’s ‘self-defence’ requirement in response to US naval freedom of navigation operations.”

Undated picture of Chinese Type 094 nuclear-powered submarine. Photo: SCMP Pictures
Last October, the Pentagon sent the destroyer USS Lassen to within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of Chinese artificial islands in the Spratlys, on a so-called “freedom of navigation” operation.
Washington and Beijing accused each other of escalating tensions and militarising the disputed waters, which are claimed wholly or in part by mainland China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach,” Song said. “It is starting to expand its influence further from the region.

He said the submarine base, and other construction projects in the Spratly Islands, were parts of its bigger overall strategy to fully control security in the region “through traditional and non-traditional military means”.

China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach

US defence officials said China had deployed two ­J-11 fighter jets and bolstered its advanced surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island, known as Yongxing in Chinese, while four of eight shipped based HQ-9 short range missile launchers deployed to the area were ­operational.

Woody Island is the largest island in the Paracel chain of islands in the South China Sea and is the adminstrative centre of Sansha provincial-level city created in 2012 and includes much of the South China Sea claimed by China.

Beijing installed a runway on the island in the early 1990s, which lies about 330km southeast of the Yulin submarine base.

The US Navy operated 75 nuclear-powered submarines in 2014, including 15 of the more modern Virginia or Seawolf-class designs, according to the World Nuclear Association.

However, it deploys only four Los Angeles-class submarines in the Asia-Pacific region, which are stationed at the US naval base on Guam.

The PLA Navy now has about 70 submarines, 16 of them are nuclear-powered, which were based mostly in Yulin, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress.

The South China Sea is the fortress protecting China’s access to the India Ocean route, which is also Beijing’s oil lifeline, with Woody Island serving as the bridgehead of Xi’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ development initiative,” Wong said. “That’s why so many advanced weapons have been deployed there.”

The China Nuclear Horn Threatens Babylon

Beijing sends nuclear capable H-6K bomber over Scarborough Shoal in new South China Sea escalation

 Jamie SeidelNews Corp Australia Network 

People’s Liberation Army air force (PLAAF) H-6K long-range bomber is shown over Scarborough Shoal. Picture: Weibo

BEIJING has sent the US a message in the skies above the South China Sea: Anything you can do, we can do too. It’s just flown a nuclear-capable bomber over Scarborough Shoal.

The United States has conducted several B-52 bomber ‘freedom of navigation’ flights over the contested waterway in recent months, along with flights by surveillance and patrol aircraft.
Beijing on Friday returned the favour.

The People’s Liberation air force (PLAAF) at the weekend released photographs of one of its newest H-6K long-range nuclear-capable bombers overflying Scarborough Shoal on China’s Weibo social media service. The aircraft, based on a 1950s Russian design, is capable of delivering nuclear weapons throughout Asia.

And some photos brought by PLA Air Force: bomber H-6K fly over Huangyan Island

— China SCIO (@chinascio) July 15, 2016

The shoal is occupied by the Philippines, but China claims the outcrop as part of its ‘Nine-Dash Line” territory under the name of Panatag Shoal.

On Friday, the same day as the bomber overflight, four Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked Filipino fishermen from accessing Scarborough waters.

The incidents came just days after an international arbitration court in The Hague rejected Beijing’s claim to territorial sovereignty over the vast majority of the South China Sea. The challenge, issued by Manila, had been rejected as invalid by China which refused to take part in proceedings..
It also comes after an April overflight of Scarborough Shaol by US air force A-10 antitank attack aircraft.

China To Protect South China Sea

China rejects tribunal’s ruling on South China Sea land grab

A tribunal at The Hague ruled in a sweeping decision Tuesday that China has no legal basis for claiming much of the South China Sea and had aggravated the seething regional dispute with its large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and the natural condition of the disputed areas.

China “does not accept or acknowledge” the tribunal or the ruling, China’s state Xinhua news agency said. The nation has long maintained that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the dispute.
The ruling is binding on both countries under a United Nations treaty that both have signed, but there is no policing agency or mechanism to enforce it. The ruling still constitutes a rebuke, carrying with it the force of the international community’s opinion. It also gives heart to small countries in Asia that have helplessly chafed at China’s expansionism, backed by its military and economic power.
Ruling on a variety of disputes the Philippines asked the tribunal to settle between it and China, the five-member panel unanimously concluded that China had violated its obligations to refrain from aggravating the dispute while the settlement process was ongoing.

The tribunal also found that China had interfered with Philippine petroleum exploration at Reed Bank, tried to stop fishing by Philippine vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines, which sought the arbitration ruling, welcomed the decision. “The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the South China Sea,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said in Manila.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. expected China and the Philippines both to comply with their obligations under the ruling, calling it an important contribution to the shared goal of peacefully resolving South China Sea disputes.

Yasay pledged to pursue a peaceful resolution of his country’s territorial disputes with China.
The tribunal said that any historic rights to resources that China may have had were wiped out if they are incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under a U.N. treaty.
It also criticized China for building a large artificial island on Mischief Reef, saying it caused “permanent irreparable harm” to the coral reef ecosystem and permanently destroyed evidence of the natural conditions of the feature.

China drafted its so-called nine-dash line to demarcate its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea. Manila brought the case because China’s claims infringe upon its own 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The dispute centers on waters through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes through each year and are home to rich fishing stocks and a potential wealth of oil, gas and other resources. The ruling comes as the U.S. has ramped up its military presence in the region.

However a new Philippine leader who appears friendlier to Beijing could also influence the aftermath of the ruling.

China, which boycotted the case, summoned its demobilized sailors and officers for training drills in exercises that apparently started just days ago.

The People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper said on social media late Monday that Chinese navy reserves have been called up to perform “functional tasks.” The post followed online rumors that reservists in central Chinese provinces were called up for an unspecified mission from July 10-22.
In the Philippines, more than 100 left-wing activists marched to the Chinese Consulate in metropolitan Manila, yelling, “Philippine territory is ours, China get out.” They called their campaign to push China out of the South China Sea, “CHexit” or “China exit now.”

Vietnam, meanwhile, accused Chinese vessels of sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat in disputed waters. Nguyen Thanh Hung, a local fisheries executive in the central province of Quang Ngai, said two Chinese vessels chased and sank the Vietnamese boat around midday Saturday as it was fishing near the Paracel islands. The five fishermen were rescued by another trawler around seven hours later.
China has argued that the tribunal has no jurisdiction and says it won’t accept the ruling. It has insisted that bilateral talks between Beijing and other claimants is the only way to address the dispute.
Findings of the tribunal are binding on the parties, including China. But the court — without police or military forces or a system of sanctions at its disposal — can’t enforce its ruling, so its potential impact remains unclear.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The China Nuclear Horn Expands Its Territory

The Future of China’s Nuclear Missile Submarines: How Worried Should America Be?

Big choices ahead for Beijing.
Lyle J. Goldstein
July 7, 2016

One of the challenges of analyzing Chinese defense and foreign policy for Western strategists is that China often behaves quite differently than conventional paradigms for strategy development would otherwise predict. For example, Beijing’s focus on sea power development has been parsed in rather excruciating detail for well over a decade, but Beijing still wields just one (almost) operational, conventional aircraft carrier and a single overseas “support point” in Djibouti. That location, adjacent to the bases of several Western powers including the United States, hardly suggests aggressive intentions.

But nowhere is China’s unique approach to military strategy as evident as in the nuclear strategy realm. It is true that Beijing’s initial restraint in creating its “minimal deterrent” during the 1960s and 1970s no doubt reflected severe resource constraints. However, there can be little doubt that if China sought a massive nuclear arsenal (on par with the United States and Russia), it could have it by now. Instead, as I have noted in this column previously, it has wisely invested in domestic transport infrastructure, such as its colossal high-speed rail network. Still, it is true that the PLA Second Artillery is now bringing online a series of new systems that will reinforce “assured destruction.” Of particular interest, is the continued development of the submarine-leg of the Chinese nuclear triad. This edition of Dragon Eye will discuss a rather detailed analysis of China’s evolving sea-based nuclear weapons written by the reasonably well-known Chinese nuclear strategist, Professor Wu Riqiang (吴日强) of Renmin University, in the naval magazine Modern Ships (现代舰船) published by the shipbuilding conglomerate CSIC in early 2016 (issue 01B).

The analysis begins with the dramatic reference to an apparent November 2015 article from People’s Navy (人民海军) that had published the official announcement from the Central Military Commission that a certain “South Sea Fleet submarine base boat 41 crew” (南海舰队某潜艇基地41艇员) is given operational status. It suggests that the same reference offered that in April 2015 the South Sea Fleet had been ordered to undertake a “long-range patrol as part of realistic combat [training]” (实战化远航任务). These rather striking pronouncements are followed by a startlingly candid admission (at least in the Chinese context). “… [I]t is generally believed that Chinese strategic nuclear missile submarines have never undertaken a strategic patrol.” Given that the PLA Navy first fired a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a strategic submarine almost three decades prior, that admission may actually cast a kind of a pall over this program.

In a similarly forthright manner, Professor Wu outlines how he sees the current U.S. threat to China’s sea-based nuclear forces: “If American SSNs are lurking off of Chinese submarine bases, then they may follow Chinese submarines as they egress from those ports. If a war erupts and they receive the order, [the U.S. submarines] can sink the [Chinese submarines]. That’s the standard American tactic.” He links the development of Beijing’s SSBN force together with Washington’s development of antiballistic missile (ABM) defenses. Professor Wu observes that Soviet strategic submarines from an early point limited their patrols in the southern hemisphere, such that U.S. missile defenses have always been oriented toward the northern flank. There is no mention of North Korea here, interestingly, but he advises that “If Chinese strategic submarine can get out to the big ocean and launch their missiles from the South Pacific, they could give U.S. missile defenses no small amount of trouble.” (… 在南太平洋发射导弹, 就可以给美国反导系统造成不小的麻烦). He notes with concern that the next phase of the BMD missile SM-3 block 2A, which Washington is presently working on with Tokyo, could pose a challenge to the penetration ability of Chinese submarine-fired missiles.

One of the most fascinating parts of this analysis consists of a discussion of whether China should pursue a more Russian-style approach or alternatively, a more American approach to developing the SSBN program. The so-called “bastion” (堡垒) model employed by the USSR during the late Cold War, according to Professor Wu, has the advantage of bringing many different types of platforms (e.g. aircraft) in to supplement the protection of the strategic submarines. Yet he observes that the other side of this coin is that the Soviet approach require the use of a wide array of military forces that obviously are taken away from other missions. He describes the American approach as “deploying autonomously” (单独部署), but notes that the U.S. Navy model for SSBN operations depends on a high degree of stealth resulting from superior acoustic performance.

Probing the possibilities for a Soviet-style bastion off China’s coasts, the analysis observes that the Bohai is too shallow, that the Yellow and East seas, while favorable to submarine stealth, are easily penetrated by forces of the adversary. Assessing the South China Sea, he says its depth is appropriate, but that sound propagation characteristics are not favorable to submarine stealth and “survivability” (生存) and that the sea area “cannot be sealed off” (不封闭). “Of course,” Professor Wu says, “concrete [details] regarding nuclear submarine deployment areas are a nation’s top secret information,” but he emphasizes again that the People’s Navy (人民海军) announcement (mentioned in this article’s introduction) did specifically cite that it was the South Sea Fleet and it was a “long distance patrol.”

Looking at some other models of SSBN deployment, Professor Wu also briefly discusses the ongoing debate in the United Kingdom about whether to maintain a “continuous undersea patrol” (持续水下巡逻), noting that opponents there argue the “cost is too high.” He then cites an American intelligence report revealing that four Type 094 SSBNs have been built already and a fifth is apparently in build, suggesting that China will certainly have the ability to maintain continuous patrols. Pointing out the command and control difficulty that the evolving SSBN capability presents for Beijing, he contends that specialized aircraft are most likely being developed (similar to the American TACAMO E-6).

For the time being, Professor Wu expresses confidence in China’s land-based nuclear missile force, when he says: “Locating land-based mobile missiles is really not easy …” (定位大陆机动导弹并不容易) He concludes the discussion by observing China’s “current impatience” (目前心急) to field an effective SSBN force, but suggests that significant improvements are still needed. For example, he underlines the imperative to develop the JL-3 SLBM with 12,000 km range that can “strike U.S. territory from China’s coastal waters and will [thus] vastly increase the flexibility of [Chinese] nuclear submarine deployments.”

However, the paper does come to one rather unexpected conclusion, in the end. Professor Wu states that “The requirement in the current period for Chinese nuclear attack submarines [SSNs] far exceeds its needs for strategic missile submarines [SSBNs]…” He does not really explain this point, but one can imagine that a new generation of quieter Chinese nuclear attack submarines could have a major impact on the naval balance in the western Pacific. Besides the obvious mission set, such boats could even break into the eastern Pacific to attack U.S. shipping off the West Coast, lay mines, or even launch land-attack cruise missiles against U.S. territory. But Wu’s central reasoning seems to be that a quiet and effective SSN force is a prerequisite to building a quiet and effective SSBN force. For him “nuclear submarine experience” (核潜艇经验) is most important, and this will not happen for China overnight.