China’s plans to develop a new submarine with nuclear-weapon capability within two years have led to a UScommission, mandated by the United States House of Congress, to suggest arms-reductions talks.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission have said in a draft of its 2012 report to the US Congress that China remains alone among the original nuclear weapons states in their effort of expanding deterrent forces.
The report stated that 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 draft went to say that China has had a largely symbolic ballistic missile submarine capability for decades. Only now is the state set to establish a "near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent".
Deployment of a hard-to-track submarine as part China's nuclear arsenal could have significant consequences in East Asia and the rest of the world. China is an economic superpower and their arms-expansion is particularly significant in the tensions it could create between the world’s other biggest economy, the US.
This is found in the report commission by the United States congress. Any Chinese effort to ensure a retaliatory capability against a US nuclear strike, the report went to state, "would necessarily affect Indian and Russian perceptions about the potency of their own deterrent capabilities vis-à-vis China".
China is currently party to many major international pacts and regimes when it comes to nuclear weapons and materials. The country, however, remains outside of key arms limitation and control conventions, notably the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed in April 2010 and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In the past, the US has approached these bilaterally with Russia.
In light of China’s plans, the congressional mandated reported has urged Congress that the US State Department outline its current planned efforts to integrate China into existing and future nuclear arms reduction, limitation, and control discussions and agreements.
The report went to suggest that Congress should "treat with caution" any proposal to unilaterally, or in the context of a bilateral deal with Russia, reduce operational US nuclear forces without clear information on the matter regarding China's nuclear stockpile and force position.
Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Arms Control Association, a private nonpartisan group in Washington, estimates China to have a total of 240 nuclear warheads. The US has some 5,113, including tactical, strategic and non-deployed weapons.
The Pentagon has 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.
A email from spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Monica Matoush at the Defense Department reads: "We monitor carefully China's military developments and urge China to exhibit greater transparency regarding its capabilities and intentions,"
Lieutenant Matoush added that any assessment of China's ability to have a nuclear triad would be an intelligence matter and likely be classified.
The final version of the report is set for released next Wednesday by the US-China commission, a 12-member bipartisan group set up in 2000 to report to US lawmakers on security implications of US-China trade.