Pentagon: Growing Threat as China Expands Missile Arsenal Development

Report reveals new data on growing Chinese missile threat

Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army / AP

China is developing several new short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, according to a military intelligence report made public this week.

"China has the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world," the report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center stated.

"It is developing and testing offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses," the report said.

According to the report, "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat," China’s missile force is "is expanding in both size and types of missiles."

China’s nuclear, missile, and missile defenses were discussed this week during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting in Washington.

A senior Obama administration official told reporters on Wednesday that President Barack Obama’s recent comments on nuclear cuts and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review were discussed in the talks.

"We had civilian, military representatives in the room at the same time, so this was a very good opportunity to add a little bit more texture to what the president was talking about," the official said.

On missile defenses, "we are trying to explain to the Chinese about some things that, frankly, have concerned them about our announcement a little earlier [of] the increase of our ground-based missiles in Alaska."

In light of the growing threat of North Korean missiles, "it would be irresponsible not to take actions to protect the United States," the officials said.

China is continuing to deploy conventionally armed short-range missiles opposite Taiwan, where more than 1,200 missiles are located.

Additionally, the Chinese military is building several new short-range missiles and maintains what the report said is "a very large force" of modern solid-propellant systems. One new short-range missile system revealed for the first time is called the DF-16.

Other short-range missiles include the CSS-6, CSS-7, and CSS-8.

The report includes a chart listing 13 types of Chinese short-range missiles, including the more-than-500 mile-range CSS-11, three versions of the CSS-6, two CSS-7s, a CSS-8, two CSS-9s, two CSS-14s, and developmental CSS-16s and CSS-15s.

The CSS-6s can hit targets ranging from 373 to 528 miles, and the CSS-7s have ranges of 186 and 373 miles. The CSS-8 is a 93-mile range missile and the CSS-9 has two variants, a 93-mile system and a 162-mile system.

The CSS-14s have ranges of 93 miles and 174 miles.

The CSS-16 will have a range of 124 miles and the CSS-15, 174 miles.

Richard Fisher, an expert on China’s military, said the disclosures in the report on short-range missiles were the first mention of the new short-range systems.

"The prospect of the [People’s Liberation Army] building new longer and shorter range missiles to compliment existing forces of around 1,200 600-kilometer range DF-15 and DF-11 missiles points toward a greater threat to Taiwan and to U.S. and Japanese forces on Okinawa," Fisher said.

The new missiles "could signify a new period for overall PLA [short-range ballistic missile] growth," he said.

Some of the new missiles likely correspond to new shorter-range missiles that China in recent years built for export, like the B-611/611M, P-12/BP-12 and M-20, Fisher said.

"China keeps the ranges of these missile below 300 kilometers in order to show compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)," he said. "But versions in PLA service could have longer ranges."

According to Fisher, the new CSS-6 Mod 2 may have a range of more than 527 miles. "This could be the DF-15B that has a new terminally guided warhead," he said.

"From PLA-controlled Woody Island in the Paracel Island group, the CSS-6 Mod 2 has sufficient range to target U.S. ships that may be returning for ‘stationing’ at Subic Bay in the Philippines."

Additionally, the new Chinese missiles also could be nuclear tipped, something not mentioned in the report.

A retired Russian general, Viktor Yesin, said in 2012 that China maintains nuclear warheads for its short-range missiles and could have as many as 500 tactical nuclear weapons.

The United States unilaterally reduced its tactical nuclear warhead stockpile, while both China and Russia are increasing their arsenals of similar weapons, he said.

Fisher said the report was deficient because it failed to mention China’s development of a new 2,480-mile range intermediate range missile that appeared in photos on the Chinese Internet in 2012.

"If China deploys this missile after 2015, as some Chinese reports have suggested, it is likely to create much greater pressure on Russia to formally withdraw from the 1988 Intermediate Nuclear Force agreement, which keeps Russia and the U.S. from building this class of missile," Fisher said.

The report also fails to mention China’s network of 3,100 miles of underground tunnels used to store both missiles and nuclear warheads.

The report mentions China’s new DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile that it designated the CSS-5.

"Missiles such as the CSS-5 [anti-ship ballistic missile] are key components of the Chinese military modernization program, specifically designed to prevent adversary military forces’ access to regional conflicts," the report said.

New ICBMs in the Chinese missile forces include the DF-31A and future long-range missiles could be equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).

"The number of Chinese ICBM nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States could expand to well over 100 within the next 15 years," the report said. "The new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is also under development."

Hans M. Kristensen, a defense analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, said China’s short-range missile development is significant.

"More dramatic is the development [of] five new short-range ballistic missiles, including the CSS-9, CSS-11, CSS-14, CSS-X-15, and CSS-X-16. The CSS-9 and CSS-14 come in different versions with different ranges," he stated in a report posted on the federation website.

The cover of the report includes a photo of North Korea’s new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, the KN-08, which is designated as the Hwasong-13 ICBM. The new missile has not been tested.

The missile was first displayed in April 2012 at a military parade in Pyongyang. It was revealed that China supplied six transporter erector launchers for the missile that were shipped in violation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea for its missile and nuclear tests.

China told the United Nations that the missile launchers were exported as lumber trucks, an explanation considered dubious by U.S. officials.

Vann Van Diepen, the State Department’s key official for arms proliferation, declined to comment this week when asked if the Obama administration would impose sanctions on China for the missile transfers.

Defense officials said the missile launcher transfers for the KN-08 were strategic and prompted the Pentagon in March to cancel the fourth phase of a European missile defense system and add 14 new long-range anti-missile interceptors at bases in Alaska and California.

North Korea is also continuing to develop the Taepodong-2 ICBM, which the report said was tested as a satellite launch vehicle in December.

"Continued efforts to develop the TD-2 and the newly unveiled ICBM show the determination of North Korea to achieve long-range ballistic missile and space launch capabilities," the report said.

Rep. Mike Turner (R., Ohio) and a subcommittee chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the report highlights the need for robust missile defenses. He also criticized the Obama administration for a lack of commitment to missile defense.

"This report confirms what many in the intelligence community have been saying for years – the global threat of missile attack is increasing," Turner said in a statement.

"Adversaries, including North Korea and Iran, are actively pursuing weapons systems which could have the ability to target the homeland. Those who say we don’t need a robust missile defense program cannot deny this expert analysis or ignore its warnings. For too long the Obama Administration has allowed our missile defense program to languish when they should have been working to prepare for these imminent threats."