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Global scrutiny follows reports of Chinese nuclear base

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Reports of a massive new naval base in southern China have fueled more concerns in the West and Asia about the rapid rise of China's military.

The underground base can reportedly hold up to 20 submarines, including new nuclear-armed submarines. It is also apparently big enough to hold future aircraft carrier groups if China decides to build them.

Military analysts say that the base is part of China's long-term plan to beef up its naval and nuclear might. They say the expansion is aimed at deterring Taiwan from making its de facto independence permanent, better protecting China's seaborne energy supplies, and projecting Chinese power far beyond its shores.

China is also replacing about 20 silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of hitting the US with a new strategic force that includes road-mobile nuclear ICBMs and submarine-launched, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, which are less vulnerable to attack. Jane's Intelligence Review, the British-based defense periodical, reported that commercially available satellite imagery had confirmed China's construction of the new base near Sanya, on China's southern Hainan Island. Military sources knew about the planned base since 2002.

China's nuclear and naval build-up at Sanya underlines Beijing's desire to assert tighter control over this region. China's increasing dependence on imported petroleum and mineral resources has contributed to an intensified Chinese concern about defending its access to vital sea lanes, particularly to its south. It is this concern that in large part is driving China's development of power-projection naval forces such as aircraft carriers and long-range nuclear submarines.
China has pursued this build-up at Sanya with little fanfare, offering no public explanations regarding its plan to base nuclear weapons or advanced naval platforms there.
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