Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.

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Chinese state-run media revealed for the first time this week that Beijing’s nuclear submarines can attack American cities as a means to counterbalance U.S. nuclear deterrence in the Pacific.

On Monday, leading media outlets including China Central TV, the People’s Daily, the Global Times, the PLA Daily, the China Youth Daily and the Guangmin Daily ran identical, top-headlined reports about the “awesomeness” of the People’s Liberation Army navy’s strategic submarine force.


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“This is the first time in 42 years since the establishment of our navy’s strategic submarine force that we reveal on such a large scale the secrets of our first-generation underwater nuclear force,” the Global Times said in a lengthy article titled “China for the First Time Possesses Effective Underwater Nuclear Deterrence against the United States.”

The article features 30 photos and graphics detailing, among other things, damage projections for Seattle and Los Angeles after being hit by Chinese nuclear warheads and the deadly radiation that would spread all the way to Chicago.

China’s sub fleet is reportedly the world’s second-largest, with about 70 vessels. About 10 are nuclear-powered, and four or more of those are nuclear ballistic submarines capable of launching missiles.

Heavily influenced by Soviet naval models that stressed underwater forces, China’s nuclear submarine development began with the reverse-engineering of a Soviet Golf-class conventional-powered sub in the 1950s.

In the 1980s, China developed its first ballistic missile sub, the Type 092 Xia-class, which has 12 launch tubes for the Julang (Giant Wave)-1 missiles. The JL-1 had a limited range and failed multiple test launches.

In 2010, a new class of missile sub, the Type 094 Jin class, entered the service. It is capable of launching 12 to 16 JL-2 missiles with a range of about 8,700 miles, covering much of the continental U.S. with single or multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicle warheads.


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Chinese calculations for nuclear attacks on the U.S. are chillingly macabre.

“Because the Midwest states of the U.S. are sparsely populated, in order to increase the lethality, [our] nuclear attacks should mainly target the key cities on the West Coast of the United States, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego,” the Global Times said.

“The 12 JL-2 nuclear warheads carried by one single Type 094 SSBN can kill and wound 5 million to 12 million Americans,” the Global Times reported.

China also has developed land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles — notably the DF-31A, which has a range of 7,000 to 7,500 miles.

“If we launch our DF 31A ICBMs over the North Pole, we can easily destroy a whole list of metropolises on the East Coast and the New England region of the U.S., including Annapolis, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Portland, Baltimore and Norfolk, whose population accounts for about one-eighth of America’s total residents,” the Global Times said.

All the state-run press reports stressed the point that the PLA’s missile submarines are now on routine strategic patrol, “which means that China for the first time has acquired the strategic deterrence and second strike capability against the United States.”

“Our JL-2 SLBMs have become the fourth type of Chinese nuclear missiles that threaten the continental United States, after our DF-31A, DF-5A and DF-5B ICBMs,” said the Global Times.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail and @Yu_miles.

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