2012-07-20 — China may need to modernize its nuclear arsenal to respond to the destabilizing effect of a planned U.S.-backed missile defense system, a senior Chinese military officer said on July 18.
“It undermines the strategic stability,” said Major General Zhu Chenghu of China’s National Defense University about the U.S.-led development of a missile shield, which has also alarmed Russia.“We have to maintain the credibility of deterrence,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a panel discussion on nuclear disarmament, referring to the military doctrine that an enemy will be deterred from using atomic arms as long as he can be destroyed as a consequence.
The United States is spending about $10 billion a year to develop, test and deploy missile defenses, which would include a European shield as part of a layered system.The defences would also include ship-based interceptors that could be deployed in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific – for instance as a hedge against North Korea – plus ground-based missile interceptors in silos in Alaska and California. The U.S. says the system in Europe is intended to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia.
‘Credibility of nuclear deterrence’
The defenses would also include ship-based interceptors that could be deployed in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific – for instance as a hedge against North Korea – plus ground-based missile interceptors in silos in Alaska and California.
China “will have to modernize its nuclear arsenal” because the deployment of a missile defense system “may reduce the credibility of its nuclear deterrence,” Zhu told the seminar. “Therefore Beijing will have to improve its capabilities of survival, penetration … otherwise it is very difficult for us to maintain the credibility of nuclear deterrence.” Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, said any American military planner in Zhu’s position would say the same.
Planned anti-missile systems and other advanced weapons in the future could “make it theoretically possible for the U.S. to launch a first strike on China, knock out most of its 40 or so long-range missiles, and intercept any left that were launched in response,” he said.