China rejects 'baseless' CIA missile report
BEIJING, China -- Beijing has dismissed as "baseless" a U.S. intelligence report saying China plans to boost its arsenal of nuclear missiles aimed at the United States from 20 to more than 100 over the next 15 years.
The report, released by the Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday, says Beijing views a larger long-range missile force as essential to maintain its nuclear deterrence against the United States, particularly as the Bush administration pushes ahead with plans for a missile defense shield.
Speaking to journalists at a Foreign Ministry press briefing in Beijing, spokesman Sun Yuxi said he had not seen details of the CIA document, but that "such matters are merely baseless speculation."
"China will increase its defense power based on its own needs," he said.
The CIA document covered intelligence reports on missile developments in various countries and their future threat to the United States.
Among other countries identified in the document titled "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat" are North Korea and Iran -- both of which the CIA says will have weapons capable of reaching the continental U.S. by 2015.
The report estimates that China currently has about 20 operational silos with CSS-4 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that have a range of up to 15,000 km, capable of hitting U.S. targets.
Another dozen or so are capable of reaching targets in Russia and Asia.
New missile systems
It also has a number of medium range submarine-launched ballistic missiles but is thought to have only one operational submarine capable of launching them.
However, the CIA report says at least three new Chinese missile systems are under development including two truck-launched systems and a new submarine-launched missile.
All of these could be in service as early as 2010 the report says.
In a further development, the report says China may also be able to mount multiple-independent re-entry vehicles -- known as MIRVs -- on to its older silo-based ICBMs.
MIRVs enable a single rocket to launch several warheads which then separate in space to hit separate targets, vastly increasing an individual missiles potential destructive power.
"Beijing is concerned about the survivability of its strategic deterrent against the United States and has a long-range modernization program to develop mobile, solid-propellant ICBMs," the report says.
"The [U.S. intelligence community] projects that by 2015, most of China's strategic missile force will be mobile."
Missile defense shield
The Bush Administration has recently announced plans to speed up development of a national missile defense shield saying the threat of long-range missile attack from hostile powers, or "rogue states", is increasing.
In order to proceed with its plans, it has given notice of the United States' intention to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Both China and Russia have expressed fears that such moves could lead to a new arms race.
Analysts say Beijing will see an expanded ICBM force as key to overcoming any U.S. missile shield and maintaining effective deterrence.
A particular cause for concern is any future conflict between the two countries over Taiwan.
Observers say that although U.S. military planners insist any defense shield is designed to defeat small-scale strikes by "rogue states" it might also be sufficient to down all 20 of China's current ICBM fleet.
They say that having a missile defense system would make it easier for the U.S. to defend Taiwan in the event of any future Chinese invasion.
Chinese Foreign Ministry
Federation of American Scientists: China's Nuclear Forces
U.S. Department of Defense
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