Category Archives: China

A Timely Coincidence

Just a day or two ago, Chinese and American defense officials agreed to hold “talks on avoiding”: “military incidents at sea”: That’s great timing, since the new issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is out, including an article by yours truly that recommends the U.S. and China hold talks on… avoiding military incidents at sea. And also some other stuff besides.

Subscribers — or those willing to pay per article — can “read it here”:

Yes, “this was well-planned”:

Collision at Sea

A few days ago, “CNN reported”: that a Chinese submarine had collided with the towed sonar array of a USN destroyer.

The “AP now reports”: confirmation of the incident by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The American side has “yet to acknowledge it”:, according to _Stars & Stripes_.

Perhaps now would be a good time to start U.S.-Chinese talks on an incidents-at-sea agreement. Before the PLA Navy* sends nuclear weapons out to sea, that is.


“X-posted to ACW”: See the “comments at ACW”:

*PLA Navy (or PLAN) = “People’s Liberation Army Navy”:

The “WSJ”: and “AP”: report that U.S. and Chinese defense officials have agreed to discussions on avoiding military incidents at sea. The talks will start in July.

China and the HCOC

Today, I stumbled across “this statement”: from China’s foreign ministry about the “Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation”: (HCOC).

I’m not sure if Beijing has said this before, but, according to the statement, “China’s policy on missile nonproliferation is in line with the principle and purposes of the HCOC.” This stance seems similar to China’s position on the MTCR…though China actually wants to join that group.

On another note, the Code would be funnier if it still went by its original name – the International Code of Conduct. ICOC is now more amusing in the age of the iPhone…

Chinese and UK Nuclear Weapons Numbers

I was recently doing some research on China’s nuclear arsenal and realized that “this 2004 Chinese MFA statement”: is frequently cited as a guide to how large Beijing’s arsenal may be.

The relevant portion reads:

bq. Among the nuclear-weapon states, China has performed the least number of nuclear tests and possesses the smallest nuclear arsenal.

Obviously, more data has emerged on the Chinese arsenal since 2004, but I think one factoid warrants a bit of attention: the United Kingdom claimed in its “December 2006 Defence White Paper”: that it had

bq. the smallest stockpile of nuclear warheads amongst the nuclear weapon States recognised under the NPT…

At that time, London possessed about 200 operationally available nuclear warheads and also had a stockpile of warheads. The UK still has such a stockpile, the number of which is kept secret..

In any case, this data may no longer be _that_ relevant, given that (based on the Chinese Military Power reports from the last few years) Beijing appears to be increasing its arsenal while London has been “implementing reductions.”:

Chinese Military Power

It “came out”: yesterday, but I didn’t notice until this morning. The DoD briefing is “here.”:

I’ll have a couple of posts up about Chinese nuclear weapons in a bit.

Late 60s U.S. Intel on Chinese Nukes

About a month ago, the Nixon Library declassified a bunch of documents. A “selection”: of them is available online.

Most of the attention was directed toward “this memo”: about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. But there are some other intriguing items.

For example, in the middle of a 1969 “Memorandum of Conversation”: regarding talks between Nixon and ROK President Pak, Nixon reveals a US intel assessment of China’s future nuclear arsenal:

bq. President Nixon: According to our intelligence, Communist
China will have *25 to 50 ICBM’s by 1976* which can hit targets in the U.S.

You may have noticed that this didn’t happen by 1976. Nor has it happened 31 years after 1976.

I’m not a Chinese nuke specialist, so I’m not sure how new this is. But a good illustration of the point.

Incidentally, Nixon also explained in the same conversation that China’s arsenal was motivating his decision to deploy a missile-defense network:

bq. Nixon:…without the ABM network a nuclear armed China might be able to use nuclear blackmail against non-nuclear countries in Asia and pose a danger to the U.S. That is why this subject is so important for the defense and security of the Free World.

Fortunately, the Free World is still here.

*Update:* Some related Israel documents can be found “here.”:

USSR: No Satellite Smashing

Wade has a great “article”: in the new _ACT_ about the Chinese ASAT test. It comes complete with a box titled “The USSR’s Past Anti-Satellite Testing.”

Here’s the lead:

bq. The Soviet Union pursued anti-satellite (ASAT) programs for decades but apparently never smashed a satellite into bits as China did recently and the United States did in 1985.

Given what he told me, Wade should do a story just about the research he did for the piece.

Anyway, the rest is below:

Before instituting a moratorium on ASAT test launches in August 1983, the Kremlin conducted at least 20 ASAT tests beginning in 1968. The Soviet tests involved the use of interceptor vehicles with explosives designed to detonate near their intended target.

None of the Soviet tests resulted in a target’s complete destruction. Indeed, *Nicholas Johnson, NASA’s chief expert on orbital debris, told Arms Control Today Feb. 24 that “only one Soviet ASAT target ever released debris as a result of an ASAT engagement.” He reported that four pieces of debris were detected from a November 1968 test.*

Nevertheless, Johnson noted that even though targets were not obliterated, *the tests were not necessarily failures. “In [the November 1968 test] and other successful engagements, the target satellite might well have been ‘destroyed’ from an operational viewpoint,” he stated.*

The Pentagon assessed the Soviet Union as first attaining an operational ASAT capability in 1971. The now-disbanded congressional Office of Technology Assessment reported in an extensive September 1985 report on ASAT systems that “Soviet ASAT capabilities threaten U.S. military capabilities to some extent now and potentially to a much greater extent in the future.”
*Moscow continued to investigate ASAT systems, allegedly including lasers, after its 1983 test moratorium, but it is uncertain how extensive and productive those efforts were and what Russia’s exact ASAT capabilities are today.*

Chinese ASAT Test ?

Jeffrey and have what you need “here”:, “here,”: and “here”:

If the Chinese did conduct an ASAT test, I, for one, would like to know WTF they were thinking. According to Noah, T. Hitchens best reflects my thoughts when I first heard about the event:

bq. Theresa Hitchens, with the Center for Defense Information called it an “irresponsible and self-defeating act” that will give “space hawks… more ammunition to take the United States down a similarly dangerous path.”


Beijing Doesn’t Seem to Be Feelin’ it

If the Bush administration really is trying to get China to put more pressure on North Korea, Hu and Bush’s press appearance today suggests that the effort isn’t going all that well:

bq. PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, thank you for this very frank exchange. I told the President that I look forward to working with him over the next four years to continue our close work on keeping peace, peace on the Korean Peninsula and peace throughout the Pacific region, and to spread peace throughout the world. And I’m looking forward to working with him on those matters

bq. ****

bq. PRESIDENT HU (on North Korea): We also discussed the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. Both sides expressed the hope that the issue can be solved peacefully through dialogue.

That’s _all_ they said. Hopefully progress is being made by somebody else, somewhere else. Hopefully.