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China Launches New Class of Nuclear Sub
1 hour, 4 minutes ago White House - AP Cabinet & State
By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - China has launched the first submarine in a new class of nuclear subs designed to fire intercontinental ballistic missiles, U.S. defense officials said Friday.
The submarine is, at a minimum, months away from having missiles installed and going on a cruise, one official said, discussing foreign weapons developments only on the condition of anonymity. Still, it is further evidence of China's intentions to expand both its nuclear weapons and submarine forces, officials say.
It was widely known that China was building the new class of nuclear-missile submarine, called the "Type 094," but the launch is far ahead of what U.S. intelligence expected, one official said.
The launch was first reported in The Washington Times. The newspaper reported that U.S. intelligence spotted the sub at a shipyard 250 miles from Beijing.
It would be China's first submarine capable of launching nuclear weapons that could reach the United States from the country's home waters, officials said.
The Chinese military has also been developing a new class of submarine-launched ballistic missile, called the JL-2, that is expected to have a range in excess of 4,600 miles. The Type 094 submarine would carry these missiles, but it is not clear whether the missiles are ready for deployment.
Previously, China has had only one submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles, called the Type 092, or Xia, class. In 2001, a Pentagon (news - web sites) report said the Xia was not operational. Its missiles were of an older class that could fly only 600 miles.
Successful cruises by the Type 094 would give China a new strategic deterrent against the United States, no longer limited to land-based ICBMs and weapons carried on aircraft. But U.S. defense officials say China lags behind the United States in its ability to hide submarines from sophisticated sonars and other sensors.
China is also modernizing its land-based nuclear missile force, replacing its estimated 20 ICBMs with more modern versions. In a report on China's military issued last May, the Pentagon said China's cache of ICBMs could increase to 30 by next year and 60 by 2010.
Although considered unlikely in the near term, the most likely avenue for conflict between the United States and China is over Taiwan, which China regards as a rogue province. Taiwan is seeking high-tech weaponry from the United States, including diesel submarines and anti-submarine aircraft.
The United States, France, Russia and the United Kingdom all have submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
China tested ballistic missile submarine in July
BEIJING: China in July test launched a new 094-class of ballistic missile submarine, which is expected to be fully operational in one or two years, well ahead of a Pentagon estimate of around 2010, The Washington Times newspaper said on Friday. One US defence official told the daily the submarine represents “a more modern, more capable missile platform,” while another called it “China’s first truly intercontinental strategic nuclear delivery system.” The new submarine, the officials said, was spotted by US intelligence agencies at Huludao shipyard, some 400 kilometres northeast of Beijing. It was in the early states of being outfitted and is not yet equipped with new JL-2 submarine-launched nuclear missiles, the report said. The vessel is believed to be based largely on Russian nuclear submarine technology, another defence official said. It is part of China’s effort to modernise and expand its missile force. The daily said a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington had no immediate comment on the report. afp