* Report urges China be brought into arms-limitation talks
* Submarine-launched nuclear warheads seen within 2 years
* Commission advises Congress on security aspects of China
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON, Nov 7 China appears to be within two
years of deploying submarine-launched nuclear weapons, adding a
new leg to its nuclear arsenal that should lead to
arms-reduction talks, a draft report by a congressionally
mandated U.S. commission says.
China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to
be expanding such deterrent forces, the U.S.-China Economic and
Security Review Commission said in a draft of its 2012 report to
the U.S. Congress.
Beijing is "on the cusp of attaining a credible nuclear
triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles,
submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-dropped nuclear
bombs," the report says.
China has had a largely symbolic ballistic missile submarine
capability for decades but is only now set to establish a
"near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent," the draft said.
The deployment of such a hard-to-track submarine-launched
leg of China's nuclear arsenal could have significant
consequences in East Asia and beyond. It also could add to
tensions between the United States and China, the world's two
For instance, any Chinese effort to ensure a retaliatory
capability against a notional U.S. nuclear strike "would
necessarily affect Indian and Russian perceptions about the
potency of their own deterrent capabilities vis-à-vis China,"
the report said.
China is party to many major international pacts and regimes
regarding nuclear weapons and materials. But it remains outside
of key arms limitation and control conventions, such as the New
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed in April 2010 and the
1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The United States
historically has approached these bilaterally with Russia.
Congress should require the U.S. State Department to spell
out current and planned efforts to integrate China into existing
and future nuclear arms reduction, limitation, and control
discussions and agreements, the draft said.
In addition, Congress should "treat with caution" any
proposal to unilaterally, or in the context of a bilateral deal
with Russia, reduce operational U.S. nuclear forces without
clearer information being made available to the public about
China's nuclear stockpile and force posture, it said.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Geng
Shuang, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China is estimated by the Arms Control Association, a
private nonpartisan group in Washington, to have a total of 240
nuclear warheads. The United States, by contrast, has some
5,113, including tactical, strategic and nondeployed weapons.
The Pentagon declined to comment directly on China's march
toward creating a credible nuclear "triad" involving strategic
bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and
submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
"We monitor carefully China's military developments and
urge China to exhibit greater transparency regarding its
capabilities and intentions," Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush,
a Defense Department spokeswoman, said by email.
Any assessment of China's ability to have a nuclear triad
would be an intelligence matter and likely be classified in
nature, she added.
The final version of the report is to be released next
Wednesday by the U.S.-China commission, a 12-member bipartisan
group set up in 2000 to report to U.S. lawmakers on security
implications of U.S.-China trade.