In a sign of the People’s Republic of China’s determination to stake out its irredentist territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, as well as its growing confidence and belligerence, a number of Chinese-run state media last week simultaneously boasted that “China for the first time possesses effective underwater nuclear deterrence against the United States” via nuclear submarines that can attack U.S. cities on the west and east coasts.
Photo of a Chinese navy nuclear submarine taking part in a nuclear safety drill at the Qingdao submarine base in Shandong province, taken on Oct. 26, 2010, and released by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) the next day.
Miles Yu reports for The Washington Times that on October 28, 2013, China’s state-owned media outlets — China Central TV, the People’s Daily, the Global Times, the PLA Daily, the China Youth Daily and the Guangmin Daily — ran identical, top-headlined reports about the “awesomeness” of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) strategic submarine force.
In an article titled “China for the First Time Possesses Effective Underwater Nuclear Deterrence against the United States,” the Global Times chillingly detailed, with photos and graphics, damage projections for Seattle and Los Angeles after being hit by Chinese nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), and the deadly radiation that would spread all the way to Chicago:
Because the Midwest states of the U.S. are sparsely populated, in order to increase the lethality, [our] nuclear attacks should mainly target the key cities on the West Coast of the United States, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
The 12 JL-2 nuclear warheads carried by one single Type 094 SSBNcan kill and wound 5 million to 12 million Americans.
If we launch our DF 31A ICBMs over the North Pole, we can easily destroy a whole list of metropolises on the East Coastand the New England region of the U.S., including Annapolis, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Portland, Baltimore and Norfolk, whose population accounts for about one-eighth of America’s total residents.
Here’s PLAN’s map showing the estimated range of radioactive fallout from a nuclear attack on Seattle (English translations are mine – Dr. C):
China’s land-based ICBMs include notably the DF-31A, which has a range of 7,000 to 7,500 miles.
The Chinese state media also emphasized that the PLAN’s missile submarines are now on routine strategic patrol, which means China for the first time has acquired the strategic deterrence and second strike capability against the United States: “Our JL-2 SLBMs have become the fourth type of Chinese nuclear missiles that threaten the continental United States, after our DF-31A, DF-5A and DF-5B ICBMs.”
China’s sub fleet is reportedly the world’s second-largest, with about 70 vessels, 10 of which are nuclear-powered, with four or more of those being nuclear ballistic submarines capable of launching missiles.
Heavily influenced by Soviet naval models, China’s nuclear submarine development began with the reverse-engineering of a Soviet Golf-class conventional-powered sub in the 1950s. In the 1980s, China developed its first ballistic missile sub, the Type 092 Xia-class, which has 12 launch tubes for the Julang (Giant Wave)-1 missiles. The JL-1 had a limited range and failed multiple test launches. In 2010, a new class of missile sub, the Type 094 Jin class, entered the service. It is capable of launching 12 to 16 JL-2 missiles with a range of about 8,700 miles, covering much of the continental U.S.with single or multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicle warheads.
In addition to threatening the United States, the PLAN’s chest-thumping evidently is also meant for domestic consumption. On October 27, 2013, PLAN gave Chinese media unprecedented publicity on its first nuclear submarine fleet, one of its most secretive military programs. China is devoting increasing resources to its naval forces to safeguard its maritime interests and assert its territorial claims.
- “China’s irredentist nationalism and the six wars to come,” Sept. 23, 2013.
- “Territorial dispute intensifies: Japan will shoot down Chinese drones,” Nov. 1, 2013.
- “Malaysia to build naval base near James Shoal, also claimed by China” Oct. 26, 2013.
- “China deploys offensive weapons in space which can destroy U.S. military satellites,” Oct. 17, 2013.
- “India’s commercial interests in South China Sea rile China,” Oct. 11, 2013.
- “Secretary of State Kerry reiterates U.S. commitment to Asia,” Oct. 8, 2013.
- “Deathknell of the PLAN,” Oct. 6, 2013.
- “4 Chinese ships entered Japan territorial waters near Senkaku,” Oct. 4, 2o13.
Dr. C is the Editor of Consortium of Defense Analysts.