Revelations that China stole U.S. nuclear warhead secrets highlight two strategic challenges to the United States. First, China is building a range of new ballistic and cruise missiles. New, small nuclear warheads--developed with the help of the stolen information and other U.S. data--will allow China to place multiple warheads on new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or equip short-range missiles with nuclear warheads. China has increased to over 100 the number of missiles pointed at Taiwan, and future theater ballistic and cruise missiles could threaten U.S. forces and allies in Asia. Second, China is seeking to weaken U.S. alliances by waging a loud and menacing campaign to prevent the U.S. deployment of missile defenses in Asia that can guard against the growing North Korean and Chinese missile forces.
China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has long viewed missile forces as a principal component of its future warfare plans. By developing a variety of nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, the PLA hopes to deter American support for Taiwan and project power in Asia. In the next several years, China can be expected to field a new mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, more accurate medium- and short-range ballistic missiles, a new land-attack cruise missile, and new reconnaissance and intelligence satellites that will support missile operations. Along with plans to make greater use of outer space for military purposes, China is seeking to develop the means to destroy opposing satellites and may also be developing its own missile defenses.
But China's interest in missile defenses has not stopped it from mounting a major diplomatic campaign of threats this year to block the U.S. deployment of missile defenses in Asia. China hopes to create the impression that American defensive missiles, not China's new offensive missiles, threaten peace in Asia. The Clinton Administration is not responding adequately to China's threats and is not sufficiently affirming the need for U.S. missile defenses. It is essential that the United States quickly develop and deploy adequate missile defense systems, lest uneasy U.S. friends and allies turn to their own missile--or even nuclear--options to deter China. The Administration should state clearly that China's new missiles threaten peace in Asia, accelerate the development of effective missile defense systems to protect U.S. forces in Asia from both increasing Chinese and North Korean missile forces, and develop and share theater missile defense systems with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. The Administration also should suspend civilian space cooperation with China until it enters into agreements with the United States that limit future missile competition.
FOR CHINA, MISSILES ARE A KEY FUTURE WEAPON
The importance of missiles to China's future military posture is emphasized dramatically by recent revelations that China obtained critical information on the U.S. W-88 nuclear warhead that allowed it to develop a similar small nuclear warhead. In China's developing strategy and doctrine, missiles hold a place of priority that is perhaps above that of air or naval forces. PLA missile-related doctrine is evolving from one that stresses the use of nuclear missiles to deter other nuclear powers to one that envisions a range of uses for nuclear and non-nuclear armed missiles at the regional level. 1 Most ballistic missiles are now controlled by a special service within the PLA called the Second Artillery. As China builds new short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, its Army, Navy, and Air Force likely will be given more missile-based strike missions as well. China's emphasis on missiles is due also to a practical reality: China by itself cannot build a modern air force and navy, but it can build a variety of modern missiles.
In addition to compensating for PLA weaknesses, missiles allow the PLA to exploit deficiencies in the military forces of the United States and other possible Asian adversaries which have no effective defenses against theater or tactical missiles or against supersonic anti-ship missiles. Missiles also are essential to a high-priority PLA goal: to build the forces needed to wage modern information warfare. Like the United States, China recognizes the vital importance to future warfare of gaining information dominance. China intends to use missiles to launch reconnaissance and communication satellites. China may also use missiles to attack satellites or terrestrial-based command, communication, computer, control and intelligence (C4I) systems. 3
Importance of Foreign Technology
The high priority that the PLA and the political leadership in China place on missile force modernization is reflected in China's determination to obtain foreign missile technology, whether by cooperation, sale, or subterfuge. Indeed, China's aerospace sector and its missile and space programs receive greater political support and resources than aircraft programs. But despite the progress China has made on its own to develop modern missiles, it still requires foreign technology inputs to keep pace with the United States. Some of China's sources for missile technology include:
The United States. Stolen W-88 small nuclear warhead data; stolen neutron bomb data; possible Tomahawk cruise missiles obtained via Afghanistan; 4 use of U.S. Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation signals; 5 information derived from commercial cooperation that is critical to improving the reliability of space launch vehicles; 6 and subsidy for future missile programs from U.S. purchase of Chinese satellite launch services. The father of China's missile program, Dr. Tsien Hsue-shen, was an important early U.S. rocket expert; he returned to China in 1955 following alleged McCarthy-period persecution. Since the 1980s, many younger Chinese aerospace engineers have studied at U.S. universities.
Russia. Has marketed the Raduga Kh-65SE and Novator Alpha cruise missiles to China; has sold China the Raduga SS-N-22 Sunburn supersonic anti-ship missile, co-production rights for the Zvezda Kh-31 supersonic anti-radiation missile, and data on large military lasers; very likely has sold China data from the VEGA-M bureau on radar satellites; and sold the S-300PMU surface-to-air missile that is helping China develop future anti-missile systems. From Belarus, China has obtained a MAZ missile transporter used for a Soviet missile that can help China make mobile its new ICBMs. 7
Israel. Possible co-development with China of a land-attack cruise missile; 8 sale to China of its Phalcon airborne radar that could help guide Chinese anti-ship missiles; alleged sale of U.S. Patriot missile to China which may be assisting future Chinese anti-missile programs. 9
Germany, Britain. Germany's DASA aerospace company has helped China develop communication satellites; Britain's University of Surrey is helping China develop small satellites, which are more difficult to detect and less expensive to produce and launch.
Kiribati, France, Brazil. Kiribati has allowed China to establish a satellite tracking station on its island of Tarawa; France and Brazil may soon begin space-tracking cooperation with China.