Satellite Photographs Reveal China’s Complex of Underground Nuclear Weapons Facilities
Satellite images obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Federation of American Scientists offer the world’s first glimpse of China’s underground nuclear facilities, according to a report released by Imaging Notes this month (see GSN, Oct. 6, 2005).
While China is nowhere near nuclear parity with the United States, according to the report, each country seems to be taking into account the other’s capabilities in modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
The United States has been enhancing its nuclear strike capabilities against targets in the Asia-Pacific region since 2002, the report says. Five submarines equipped with ballistic missiles have been shifted from Atlantic to Pacific ports, with over two-thirds of the U.S. nuclear submarine force now based in the Pacific. The Trident I C4 sea-launched ballistic missile has also been retired and replaced with the longer-range and more accurate Trident II D5, which can carry the most powerful ballistic missile warhead in the U.S. arsenal, the report says.
China, meanwhile, has only one submarine capable of delivering nuclear warheads, but is developing a new class of nuclear-capable submarine, according to the report (Imaging Notes, Winter 2006).
The new images of underground bases in China support U.S. intelligence and Defense Department analyses that conclude China is engaged in a secret military buildup, the Washington Times reported today.
“The Chinese have a whole network of secret facilities that the U.S. government understands but cannot make public,” said on Pentagon official. “This is the first public revelation of China’s secret buildup.”
The photographs, taken from 2000 to 2004, show China’s Xia-class submarine docked at the Jianggezhuang port on the Yellow Sea. Nuclear warheads are believed to be stored inside an underwater tunnel about 450 meters away from the vessel, according to the Times. The photographs also include shots of H-6 strategic bombers and nuclear-capable Qian-5 aircraft.
The U.S. Defense Department’s most recent four-year strategy report, released this month, says China is emerging as a power with “the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States.”
The most recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concludes that China is deceiving the United States and other nations about its military efforts, the Times reported. Requests from Pentagon officials to visit underground Chinese military sites have been denied.
“The Chinese have denied having any underground submarine facilities,” a Pentagon official added.
China’s nuclear arsenal includes some 45 long-range missiles, 100 short-range missiles and 12 submarine-launched missiles, each with a single warhead, according to a classified Defense Intelligence Agency assessment (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, Feb. 16).
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