Continued from page 1

China now can launch all of its strategic missiles from mobile launch vehicles, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper the People’s Daily reported Friday.

“As the high-tech unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Second Artillery Corps (SAC) has fully completed the transition from ‘troops in the mountains’ to ‘troops on the wheel’ over the past 10 years,” the report said.

The SAC is China’s strategic rocket and missile force, the most lethal and secretive of all PLA units.

Founded in 1966, the SAC is charged with handling all of China’s land-based missiles, including ground-to-ground strategic nuclear missile forces, conventional operational-tactical missile forces and their support units.

All countries’ missile forces share a common distinction of secrecy, but China’s secretiveness is extreme. No outside sources are permitted to have access to the size, numbers or classes of missiles deployed by the PLA, while such information is openly available in most other countries.

This ultrasecretive nature has stimulated outside efforts to closely monitor China’s missile units through aerial and space surveillance, and that in turn has made China’s silo-based missiles vulnerable to a first strike, thus greatly reducing China’s strategic deterrence.

“Missile forces are always a focus of other countries’ satellite reconnaissance,” the People’s Daily stated. “Mobile launch is an effective way to deal with such reconnaissance and escape possible attacks.”

“At present, all of [the SAC’s] missiles can be launched by vehicle-mounted launchers, making it possible to conduct strikes in all terrains, all directions, and all weathers,” the report said. “The SAC’s First Conventional Missile Brigade has launched missiles more than 100 times, and never missed its targets.”

The People’s Daily report ended with this intriguing news: “Last year, the SAC’s first all-female unit made its debut on a plateau, where 35 female artillerists launched missiles that all hit their targets.”

The report made no mention of recent Western news reports that China recently conducted flight tests of DF-41 and DF-31A road-mobile missiles and a JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.