Sunday 24 February 2008
China's Secret Nuclear Carrier (Udpated Again)
The South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh is reporting that it's obtained information on a top-secret dossier that claims China plans to build a nuclear-powered carrier by 2020. Those claims, if true, would certainly have big implications for China's military power -- extending the reach of China's navy out to Guam as the article notes:
A source close to Chinese military affairs said on March 27 that China has been promoting the construction of a 93,000-ton atomic-powered carrier under a plan titled the "085 Project." The nation also has a plan to build a 48,000-ton non-nuclear-powered carrier under the so-called "089 Project," added the source. China had so far been known to be pushing ahead with construction of a non-nuclear-powered carrier, but not an atomic-powered one.
Once the proposed Chinese carriers are deployed, the radius of the Chinese NavyÂ¡Â¯s range is expected to reach Guam, where a U.S. base is located. Thus, military experts are worried about ChinaÂ¡Â¯s moves prompting an arms race in Northeast Asia.
The dossier said the construction of the nuclear-powered carrier will be completed in 2020. China State Shipbuiling CorpÂ¡Â¯s Jiangnan shipyard located on Changxing Island near Shanghai, will be responsible for its design and construction. The size is similar to former SovietÂ¡Â¯s unfinished atomic-powered carrier Ulyanovsk, the dossier states. China reportedly secretly purchased the design of Ulyanovsk from Russia. When the nuclear-powered carrier is finished, China will own an aircraft carrier which is on par with the U.S.Â¡Â¯s newest of such vessels, the 97,000-ton atomic-powered USS Ronald Reagan, which recently docked at Busan Port to participate in a joint exercise between the South Korean and U.S. militaries.
UPDATE #1: Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard says the carrier report, if true, may be nothin' more than a big bullseye, but it demonstrates China's commitment to being a world power.
I'd still contend that, as Brookes put it, Chinese carriers would be "nuthinâ€™ but big, fat gray targets," but that doesn't change the fact that an aircraft carrier would boost Beijing's ability to project "soft power." And deploying a Nimitz-sized nuclear carrier would, like the ASAT test, show that China is to be considered a military superpower.
UPDATE #2: Dave, a self-declared DANGER ROOM fan (which we always appreciate) tells me that the Korean newspaper's big scoop has actually been around for some time (okay, but in Chinese). He also notes the newspaper has confused the "085" with the "089" (the latter being the nuclear-powered carrier).