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China to expand nuclear forces, U.S. report finds

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 7:20 p.m.

WASHINGTON — China is only two years away from developing nuclear-powered submarines, a draft report by a congressionally mandated U.S. commission found.

China is “on the cusp of attaining a credible nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-dropped nuclear bombs,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in a draft of its 2012 report to Congress.

China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states — United States, Russia, Britain and France — to be expanding its nuclear forces, the report said.

China has had a largely symbolic ballistic missile submarine capability for decades but is only now set to establish a “near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent,” the draft said.

The deployment of such a hard-to-track, submarine-launched leg of China's nuclear arsenal could have significant consequences in East Asia and beyond. The report warned that an advanced nuclear submarine in China's hands and its ability to retaliate against a nuclear strike “would necessarily affect Indian and Russian perceptions about the potency of their own deterrent capabilities vis-à-vis China”.

As such, the report urged Congress to engage China deeper into nuclear arms reduction talks.China is estimated to have a total of 240 nuclear warheads. The United States has about 5,113, including tactical, strategic and nondeployed weapons.

Meanwhile, China remains “the most threatening” power in cyberspace and presents the largest challenge to America's supply chain integrity, the draft said.

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