China continues to deploy four new nuclear capable ballistic missiles, including one that can be launched from submarines (SLBM), causing fear among its neighbors and the US, says a latest report by Federation of American Scientists. This, coupled with Beijing’s reluctance to define its minimum deterrence posture, says the report, has raised doubts about its intentions in upgrading its nuclear and missile arsenal.
The report authored by scientists Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris estimates that China has 240 nuclear warheads. While the report focuses mainly on China’s attempts to target the US by assigning an increasing number of warheads to its long-range missiles, it says Beijing is now using the 7,200 km-range DF-31 missiles to target India and Russia instead of the earlier DF-4.
Indian officials say it’s worrisome that Delingha in central Qinghai province is one of the places, where most of the upgrade is taking place. Not more than 2,000km from Delhi, Delingha is meant to be used almost exclusively for India as other countries from here like Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan are not identified as potential targets.
Kristensen told TOI that India was a potential target, but added that the Chinese nuclear policy is geared towards all potential adversaries, each of which has its own characteristics. “India to the south is countered with medium-range missiles from central (Delingha region) and southern (Kunming region) China,” he said. “One factor that can contribute to making the situation better or worse between China and India is of course India’s own military modernization along the India-China border as well as India’s development of longer-range nuclear missiles that are more directly aimed at China,” he added.
Estimating that China has approximately 140 land-based nuclear ballistic missiles, the report says Beijing is deploying four new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles (the DF-21, DF-31, DF-31A, and JL-2). “Deployment of the DF-31, first introduced in 2006, continues at a slow rate; China is using the DF-31 ICBM to replace its older DF-4 missiles.
We estimate that China deploys 10-20 DF-31s, with the same number of launchers,” says the report, adding that DF-31 is taking over regional targeting of Russia, India, and Guam from the DF-4.
“With regard to conventional forces, US capabilities and operations in northeast Asia also mean that China’s general military modernization appears to be focused on US-China scenarios.
But the long border with Russia is a major military focus for Chinese general purpose military planning. And the border with India is another area of new interest and upgrades,” Kristensen added.