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Inside the Ring

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2008

China missile test

China recently conducted a test of its newest submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Julang-2 (JL-2), which will be deployed on Beijing's fleet of new missile submarines, according to U.S. defense officials.

The test launch took place May 29 from a submarine in Bohai Bay, off northern China, and landed in the Yellow Sea.

The missile has an estimated range of about 5,000 miles and represents a new generation of strategic nuclear-capable weapons being outfitted on the Type 094 submarine, dubbed the Jin-class by the Pentagon.

One defense official said the new JL-2 "shares features with the land-based Dong Feng-31 missile," another new Chinese nuclear missile system.

Officials confirmed the JL-2 after it was first reported last week in two Japanese newspapers that quoted Japanese military sources.

"While the U.S. government provides insufficient informational warning about the JL-2's capabilities, Asian sources have long commented it may eventually carry three to four warheads or a number of decoys," said Richard Fisher, a military affairs specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

"This means that five Type 094 missile submarines could account for over 180 warheads," he said.

Hans Kristensen, a specialist on the Chinese nuclear forces with the Federation of American Scientists, stated that China is expected to deploy its new missile submarines in Bohai because it is easier to protect them in the bay. "From the shallow bay, the Julang-2 missiles could be used to target Guam and Alaska, India, Russia and - at the limit of its range - Hawaii," he stated.

The Pentagon's latest annual report on China's military confirmed for the first time in March that Beijing is building up to five Jin-class submarines, each of which will be armed with 10 to 12 JL-2s, a sharp increase in China's strategic nuclear-warhead arsenal.

Defense officials also recently disclosed, as reported in this space earlier, that the JL-2 could be deployed with an anti-satellite warhead capable of killing U.S. satellites, similar to the land-based missile that knocked out a Chinese satellite in a January 2007 test.

U.S. officials also said new missile submarines likely will be deployed at the new southern submarine base at Hainan Island.

China's military so far is balking at U.S. efforts to hold talks on strategic nuclear weapons despite appeals from the Pentagon.

Nuclear accord opposed

Democrats and Republicans in the House are opposing the Bush administration's civilian nuclear agreement with Russia, pending before Congress, over concerns that Moscow is still supplying dangerous weapons and technology to Iran and other rogue states.

Fourteen House Republicans wrote to President Bush last week to tell him to withdraw the proposed civilian nuclear cooperation accord over concerns the administration can't certify that Moscow has stopped supplying missile and other weaponry to Iran.

The lawmakers are opposing the so-called "123 Agreement" on peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia, which the Bush administration is touting as a positive step in gaining Russian nonproliferation cooperation.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, based their opposition on a recent presidential waiver request to allow U.S. space cooperation with Russia. The need for a waiver indicated Russia is not in compliance with the terms of a U.S. nonproliferation law aimed at blocking Iranian, North Korean and Syrian weapons programs.

On the Democratic side, Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan, wrote earlier to the president asking about continued Russian nuclear assistance to Iran. Mr. Dingell and Mr. Stupak stated that any civilian nuclear agreement should include a prohibition on Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran, including apparent ongoing transfers of nuclear technology and training of Iranian nuclear scientists.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the accord, which goes into effect automatically unless Congress acts to modify the agreement, which will permit transfers of nuclear materials and reactors.

Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said he opposes the nuclear agreement unless conditions are added that would seek to halt Russian support to Iran's nuclear program, in light of international efforts to pressure Tehran. "In the politically charged environment of presidential politics, some might call this appeasement," he said of approving the accord in its current form.

Air Force message

The Air Force is trying to put the best face on the forced resignations last week of its two top leaders, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

"It's a difficult time for the Air Force," stated an Air Force memorandum sent out last week as "Talking Points for Air Force Leaders."

The note stated it is important for all airmen to understand why the two leaders were dismissed, namely that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "saw systemic problems in the way the Air Force was handling a critical mission area for many years and [he] held our leaders responsible."

Gen. Moseley and Mr. Wynne "took responsibility and held themselves accountable for actions which occurred within the Air Force," the memo said. "They stood up and did the honorable thing that we hope any airman would. We should admire and respect them for that."

The note cited "lapses in discipline, compliance, focus, and attention to detail in critical mission areas" for Mr. Gates' action. "We are a nation at war, and we have a mission to perform for this great nation. Let's do it with pride and our heads held high," the memo said.

Defense officials said the firings followed a year-long rift between the defense secretary and the two Air Force leaders beyond the two incidents of lax controls on nuclear weapons and related equipment, the public reason for the dismissals.

Other issues included disagreements over the budget and weapons use and development issues on such topics as unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq, development of a new bomber and a new manned reconnaissance aircraft, and the Air Force leaders' insistence on buying twice the number of F-22 fighters that Mr. Gates' sought.

c@washingtontimes.com.