China Nuclear Horn Controls The Sea (Dan 7)

Pentagon confirms patrols of Chinese nuclear missile submarines

QINGDAO, CHINA - APRIL 22: Chinese navy officers stand next to the entrance of Great Wall - 218 of Navy Submarine at Qingdao Port on April 22, 2009 in Qingdao of Shandong Province, China. The submrine will attend an international fleet review to be held on April 23 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy. (Photo by Guang Niu/Pool/Getty Images)

QINGDAO, CHINA – APRIL 22: Chinese navy officers stand next to the entrance of Great Wall – 218 of Navy Submarine at Qingdao Port on April 22, 2009 in Qingdao of Shandong Province, China. The submrine will attend an international fleet review to be held on April 23 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. (Photo by Guang Niu/Pool/Getty Images)

By Bill Gertz –
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

China has begun patrols with nuclear missile submarines for the first time, giving Beijing a new strategic nuclear strike capability, according to the U.S. Strategic Command and Defense Intelligence Agency.

U.S. intelligence and strategic nuclear officials, however, remain uncertain whether China’s four Jin-class missile submarine patrols are being carried out with nuclear-tipped JL-2 missiles on board.
DIA and Strategic Command representatives said this week that there were no changes to DIA’s assessment earlier this year that China would begin the nuclear missile submarine patrols this year.
The problem for officials in declaring the Jin-class submarines a new Chinese strategic nuclear threat is a lack of certainty that Chinese Communist Party leaders have agreed to the unprecedented step of trusting operational submarine commanders with control over the launching of nuclear missiles.
Navy Capt. Pamela S. Kunze, Strategic Command spokeswoman, elaborated on comments by Adm. Cecil Haney, the Strategic Command commander, and confirmed that the nuclear submarine patrols were taking place.

She told Inside the Ring: “Given China’s known capabilities and their efforts to develop a sea-based deterrent, in absence of indicators to the contrary, it is prudent to assume that patrols are occurring.”
Adm. Haney said in October that he was not waiting for China to announce its first nuclear missile patrols because, as with most other issues related to Chinese nuclear forces, the capabilities of the submarines remain hidden by military secrecy.

“The Chinese have had these submarines at sea this year, so I have to look at it as operational capability today,” the four-star admiral said. “And [I] can’t think that when those submarines are at sea that they aren’t on patrol.”

The real question, the Stratcom leader said, is: “Have they put the missile we’ve seen them test, the JL-2, in for a package that is doing strategic deterrent patrols? I have to consider them today that they are on strategic patrol,” he said, meaning the submarines were equipped with nuclear missiles.
For the U.S., that means “there’s another capability that’s out there having nuclear capability of ranges that can strike the United States of America,” the admiral said.

The patrols mark a significant turning point for the Chinese. In the past, Beijing stored all nuclear warheads separately from its missiles, in part to demonstrate what China calls its policy of “no first use” — that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict and would use them only in retaliation for hostile nuclear attacks.

Another reason warheads are kept separate is the Communist Party’s near-paranoid obsession with political control. Separating warheads from missiles allows for a greater centralized control over the nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to be 300 warheads but is likely far larger.

Chinese authorities fear giving a submarine commander control over the launch of nuclear missiles and worry that one of the military’s hawks could ignore the party’s nuclear chain of command and order a nuclear strike on his own.

Patrols by Jin-class submarines with nuclear-armed JL-2s, if confirmed, mark a new stage in Communist Party trust with the People’s Liberation Army.

Sending the Jin submarines on patrol without nuclear missiles or warheads would be viewed as a hollow gesture and undermine the intended message behind the capability to launch stealthy underwater missile attacks.

China is extremely secret about its nuclear forces. However, PLA missile submarines appear to be different. In 2013, state-run Chinese media published details on contingency plans to attack the western United States with submarine-launched missiles, an attack that would kill what the Global Times newspaper estimated would be up to 12 million Americans.

The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in its annual report made public last month, said the missile submarine patrols will mark China’s “first credible at-sea second-strike nuclear capability.” The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported in September that the first nuclear submarine patrols had taken place.

The commission report quoted PLA Navy Commander Adm. Wu Shengli as saying: “This is a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified. It is a strategic force symbolizing our great-power status and supporting national security.”

Recent Chinese military enthusiast websites have posted photographs of suspected Chinese submarine tunnels. One was shown Oct. 7 at a naval base on Shangchuan Island, along the southern Chinese coast near Hong Kong. In May, photos posted online showed the opening of a nuclear missile submarine cave at an undisclosed location.

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