China is developing a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile as part of a military buildup of both its regional and long-range nuclear forces, according to a forthcoming congressional commission report.
The latest publicly available draft of the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission presents a dire picture of advancing Chinese military capabilities and declining relations with the United States.
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"U.S.-China security relations continued to deteriorate in 2015," the report concludes. "China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and its unremitting cyber espionage against the United States were the key drivers of growing distrust."
The military buildup of high-tech weapons "makes clear that China seeks the capability to limit the U.S. military’s freedom of movement in the Western Pacific," the report says.
On the regional nuclear buildup, the report says "China appears to be pursuing a theater nuclear capability in addition to the strategic nuclear capability it has maintained since it became a nuclear state in the 1960s."
The growth in regional nuclear forces poses new dangers for a future conflict in the increasingly volatile Asia Pacific region, a zone where China added to destabilization through disputed maritime claims while seeking to drive U.S. forces out of the region.
"In a conflict, China’s maturing theater nuclear capability could provide it with the means to flexibly employ nuclear weapons to deescalate or otherwise shape the direction of conflict," the report said.
Additionally, the commission report warns that the U.S. government’s passive approach to "massive" Chinese cyber attacks is likely to encourage further damaging cyber strikes on both government and private computer networks.
"The United States has relied on a passive defense, and the U.S. government has failed to create an overall strategy to counter the increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks on some of its most valuable technology," the report said.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for Congress to pass laws allowing U.S. companies to conduct counter cyber attacks to punish Chinese and other cyber foes by stealing back or destroying stolen data or using cyber attacks to damage hackers and their gear. U.S. law currently prohibits such counterattacks.
China’s high-technology military buildup also includes an array of space weaponry that indicates Beijing is preparing for space warfare against U.S. satellites in a future conflict, according to the report.
A copy of the draft report was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon from the commission staff. The final report could change from the draft and will be released formally next month, a spokesman said.
The report said that in the three years since coming to power, Chinese supreme leaders Xi Jinping made significant progress in consolidating power, including a purge in the military ostensibly aimed at countering corruption that also is part of police power consolidation.
China’s space weaponry includes two types of anti-satellite missiles for attacking low-earth and high-earth orbit, small orbiting attack satellites, electronic jammers, lasers, and cyber weapons capable of taking control of satellites.
"As China’s developmental counterspace capabilities become operational, China will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime," the report states.
The annual report for the first time provides a detailed assessment of China’s large-scale nuclear and missile buildup that while remaining small in number is growing increasingly lethal and difficult to counter.
Still regarded as a minimal nuclear deterrent of some 250 warheads that would be used only after China is attacked by nuclear arms, the Chinese are developing new cruise and ballistic missiles to target U.S. forces in Asia and other regional states, as well as the continental United States.
The commission report also raises new questions about China’s so-called "no-first-use" doctrine of not being the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict. The report says Beijing appears to be reconsidering the doctrine and adopting a "launch-on-warning" system used by the United States and other nuclear powers. That doctrine calls for launching nuclear missiles and bombers before first being attacked.
China’s recent military parade marking the 70th anniversary of end of World War II included several new missiles, including the DF-26 intermediate-range missile that can be armed with both nuclear and conventional warheads.
"The parade highlighted the pace and sophistication of China’s missile modernization, and signaled to the world China’s seriousness about enhancing both its nuclear and conventional missile capabilities and its ability to hold adversary forces at greater distance and greater risk," the report says.
Regarding the new cruise missile, the report states that China’s military is likely developing a nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile called the CJ-20 that will be outfitted on H-6 bombers, each of which can carry six of the missiles.
The long-range CJ-20 is a variant of the current DH-10 land-attack cruise missiles that is also nuclear-capable and "enhances the lethality of China’s air-launched cruise missile arsenal," the report says.
The missile sharply increases the range of its missile forces to include the U.S. island of Guam, a major military hub.
"A nuclear-capable CJ-20 would indicate China is developing new, air-delivered theater nuclear strike capabilities, in addition to its formidable ballistic missile theater nuclear forces and the strategic nuclear strike capability it has maintained since it became a nuclear state," the report said.
The missile also could be deployed on Chinese ships and submarines allowing it to target U.S. military facilities in Guam, Hawaii, and Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean.
China’s anti-ship cruise missile forces also have "advanced significantly," the report said.
"Because there are doubts regarding whether U.S. Navy shipboard systems could reliably and adequately defend against intense salvos of China’s advanced Russian-made and indigenous [anti-ship cruise missiles], China’s advancing ASCM technologies are reason for concern," the report states.
A chart in the report lists a total of 12 different cruise missiles, including the CJ-20, with ranges of between 62 miles and 932 miles.
"China is developing cruise missiles that are increasingly difficult for the U.S. military to detect and defend against," the report said.
China’s ballistic missile forces also are growing more lethal with the addition of multiple warheads and precision guided warheads.
Beijing has 13 different ballistic missiles, both silo-based and road-mobile, with ranges of between 186 miles and 6,959 miles.
On China’s maritime disputes in the South China Sea, the report outlines new details of the military buildup on some of the 2,900 acres of islands created by Chinese dredging.
"China is building, expanding, and upgrading military and civilian infrastructure on the islands," the report said. The construction included up to three airstrips, helipads, port facilities, radars, and satellite communication equipment, and antiaircraft and naval guns."
The report said the island-building is part of a military plan the Pentagon calls "anti-access/area-denial" aimed at preventing U.S. forces, a presence of peace and stability for some 60 years, from operating.
Chinese military forces on the islands could be used to prevent a U.S. defense of Taiwan, as required under the 1972 Taiwan Relations Act.
On Taiwan, the report warned that growing anti-mainland sentiment on the island could lead to the election of a pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party president in January.
The military buildup is also taking place on islands in the East China Sea, where China is disputing Japan for control of the Senkaku islands.
One new exotic weapon mentioned in the report is the Aviation Industry Corp. of China's high-altitude hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicle for regional strategic reconnaissance operations. Press reports indicate the drone will travel at up to three times the speed of sound at 95,000 feet.
On cyber, a section to be deleted from the final report said: "Evidence of Chinese cyber espionage against U.S. military and civilian government entities illustrates a focused, well resourced, and state-sponsored effort by China to secure an advantage in an evolving strategic competition with the United States. China has the resources and the demonstrated capability to extract sensitive data from U.S. agencies and steal defense technology and other secrets."
A Pentagon report from January 2015 stated that the U.S. defense industry is vulnerable to Chinese cyber attacks noting "significant vulnerabilities on nearly every [Defense Department] acquisition program that underwent cyber security [operational test and evaluation] in [fiscal year] 2014."