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Nuclear Déjà Vu At Carnegie

By Ivan Oelrich and Hans M. Kristensen

Only one week before Barack Obama is expected to win the presidential election, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made one last pitch for the Bush administration’s nuclear policy during a speech Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

What is the opposite of visionary?  Whatever, that’s the word that best describes Mr. Gates’s speech.  Had it been delivered in the mid-1990s it would not have sounded out of place. The theme was that the world is the way the world is and, not only is there little to be done about changing the world, our response pretty much has to be more of the same.

Granted, Gates’s job is to implement nuclear policy not change it but, at a time when Russia is rattling its nuclear sabers, China is modernizing its forces, some regional states either have already acquired or are pursuing nuclear weapons, and yet inspired visions of a world free of nuclear weapons are entering the political mainstream, we had hoped for some new ideas. Rather than articulating ways to turn things around, Gates’ core message seemed to be to “hedge” and hunker down for the long haul. And, while his arguments are clearer than most, this speech is yet another example of faulty logic and sloppy definitions justifying unjustifiable nuclear weapons. Continue Reading →

State Department Arms Control Board Declares Cold War on China

After planning the war against Iraq, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz now heads the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board that recommends a Cold War against China.

By Hans M. Kristensen

A report from an advisory board to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recommended that the United States beefs up its nuclear, conventional, and space-based posture in the Pacific to counter China.

The report, which was first described in the Washington Times, portrays China’s military modernization and intentions in highly dramatic terms that appear go beyond the assessments published so far by the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Although the Secretary of State asked for recommendations to move US-Chinese relations away from competition and conflict toward greater transparency, mutual confidence and enhanced cooperation, the board instead has produced a report that appears to recommend policies that would increase and deepen military competition and in essence constitute a small Cold War with China. Continue Reading →

Nuclear Policy Paper Embraces Clinton Era “Lead and Hedge” Strategy

By Hans M. Kristensen

The new nuclear policy paper National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century published quietly Tuesday by the Defense and Energy Departments embraces the “lead and hedge” strategy of the first Clinton administration for how US nuclear forces and policy should evolve in the future.

Yet the “leading” is hard to find in the new paper, which seems focused on hedging.

Instead of offering different alternative options for US nuclear policy, the paper comes across as a Cold War-like threat-based analysis that draws a line in the sand against congressional calls for significant changes to US nuclear policy.

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China’s Xia-Class SSBN Leaves Dry Dock

The Xia-class SSBN appears to have completed a multi-year overhaul. The submarine has been in dry dock at least since 2005. Click on image to download large version.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

China’s single Xia-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine has been launched from the dry dock at the Jianggezhuang Naval Base where it has been undergoing a multi-year overhaul. The Xia was discovered on a commercial satellite image, which shows the submarine moored in the harbor.

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Chinese Nuclear Notebook Published

A new Nuclear Notebook on Chinese nuclear forces has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The notebook provides an unofficial overview of China’s nuclear-capable missiles, submarines and aircraft based on analysis done by Robert S. Norris (NRDC) and myself of Chinese and U.S. government documents, media reports, and other publications.

The full article (PDF format) can be downloaded from here.

Extensive Nuclear Missile Deployment Area Discovered in Central China

Click on image to view higher resolution
More than 50 launch pads for nuclear ballistic missiles have been identified scattered across a 2,000 square kilometer (772 square miles) area of central China, according to analysis of satellite images. Click image for full size. Also download GoogleEarth KMZ file.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Analysis of new commercial satellite photos has identified an extensive deployment area with nearly 60 launch pads for medium-range nuclear ballistic missiles in Central China near Delingha and Da Qaidam.

The region has long been rumored to house nuclear missiles and I have previously described some of the facilities in a report and a blog. But the new analysis reveals a significantly larger deployment area than previously known, different types of launch pads, command and control facilities, and missile deployment equipment at a large facility in downtown Delingha.

The U.S. government often highlights China’s deployment of new mobile missiles as a concern but keeps the details secret, so the discovery of the deployment area provides the first opportunity for the public to better understand how China operates its mobile ballistic missiles.
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Nukes in the Taiwan Crisis

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Nuclear bombs in Asia at the time of the Taiwan Strait crisis are listed (red box) in this Strategic Air Command document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Click on image above to download PDF copy of list.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Thanks to the efforts of Bill Burr at the National Security Archive, some of the veil covering U.S. nuclear war planning against China in the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis now has been lifted by a declassified military study.

It shows that on the day after the Chinese began shelling the Quemoy islands on August 23, 1958, U.S. Air Force Headquarters apparently assured Pacific Air Forces “that, assuming presidential approval, any Communist assault upon the offshore islands would trigger immediate nuclear retaliation.” Yet President Dwight D. Eisenhower fortunately rejected the use of nuclear weapons immediately, even if China invaded the islands, and emphasized that under no circumstances would these weapons be used without his approval.

Caution against nuclear use didn’t mean not planning for it, however, and in the years after the Taiwan Strait crisis an enormous nuclear build-up occurred in the Far East. The numbers started to decline in the 1970s, and for a period during the 1980s and first half of the 1990s, nuclear planning against China was reduced to reserve force contingencies. In the past decade, however, China has again become a focus for U.S. nuclear strike planning.

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New Chinese SSBN Deploys to Hainan Island

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Chinese navy has deployed a Jin-class (Type 094) ballistic missile submarine to a new base near Yulin on Hainan Island on the South China Sea, according to a satellite image obtained by FAS. The image shows the submarine moored at a pier close to a large sea-entrance to an underground facility.

Also visible is a unique newly constructed pier that appears to be a demagnetization facility for submarines.

A dozen tunnels to underground facilities are visible throughout the base compound.

The satellite image, which has also been described in Jane’s Defense Weekly, was taken by the QuickBird satellite on February 27, 2008, and purchased by FAS from DigitalGlobe.

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Chinese Nuclear Arsenal Increased by 25 Percent Since 2006, Pentagon Report Indicates

China’s nuclear weapons arsenal has increased by 25 percent since 2006, Pentagon reports indicate, due to deployment of new ballistic and cruise missiles.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Updated April 8, 2008

The Pentagon’s 2008 annual report to Congress on China’s military power indicates, when compared with previous versions, that China has increased its nuclear arsenal by 25 percent since 2006. The increase has happened due to deployment of new long-range solid fueled ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

Part of the increase can be expected to be offset by retirement of older liquid fueled missiles over the next several years, but the trend is toward a slightly larger arsenal in the future.

As a reminder of the tendency to estimate too much too soon, however, the 2008 report lowers the range estimates for all three types of China’s new long-range ballistic missiles, one of them by as much as 10 percent.
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Chinese Submarine Patrols Rebound in 2007, but Remain Limited

By Hans M. Kristensen

China’s entire fleet of approximately 55 general-purpose submarines conducted a total of six patrols during 2007, slightly better than the two patrols conducted in 2006 and zero in 2005.

The 2007 performance matches China’s all-time high of six patrols conducted in 2000, the only two years since 1981 that Chinese submarines conducted more than five patrols in a single year.

The new information, obtained by Federation of American Scientists from the U.S. Navy under the Freedom of Information Act, also shows that none of China’s ballistic missile submarines have ever conducted a deterrent patrol. Continue Reading →