- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

China will soon deploy its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, a new long-range strategic weapon whose predicted range includes the western United States, The Washington Times has learned.
U.S. intelligence agencies detected the Chinese military's formation of the first missile units equipped with Dong Feng-31 missiles in July, and the Pentagon believes the first missiles will be fielded by the end of the year. Dong Feng means "East Wind" in Chinese.
The missile was last flight-tested in December, and several static tests were conducted earlier this year. An additional flight test is expected in the near future, according to intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"This is a faster deployment schedule than was expected," said one intelligence official.
A second U.S. official disagreed with the Pentagon's assessment. This official said deployment by the end of the year is "in the realm of possibility but not likely" because of the need for more testing.
Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin said in a speech Aug. 21 that China is "modernizing its strategic missile force" by shifting from reliance on some 20 long-range ICBMs "to the development and deployment of mobile ICBMs."
"We project that Beijing is already on a course to increase its strategic warheads several-fold by 2015, though to levels still well below those of the United States or Russia," Mr. McLaughlin said.
The key indicator of the pending DF-31 deployment was the formation in July of Chinese military units that will be equipped with the new ICBM. The units have begun what the officials described as "crew training" for the DF-31 units, which are part of the Chinese military's Second Artillery the part of the army in charge of all missile troops.
One classified U.S. intelligence report concluded that the DF-31 will have its first "operational capability" by the end of the year, the officials said.
Some of the missiles and launchers believed to be for the new units were photographed by a U.S. spy satellite on a train coming from a manufacturing plant, the officials said.
Disclosure of the DF-31 deployment comes amid reports the Bush administration was considering a proposal to give up any objections to China's strategic nuclear buildup in exchange for Beijing dropping its opposition to U.S. missile defenses.
White House and Pentagon officials vehemently denied the reports, first disclosed in the New York Times last week. President Bush opposes China's long-range missile buildup, administration spokesmen said Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress during a hearing yesterday that China is building up "not just ballistic missiles, longer-range and shorter-range and nuclear, but mostly non-nuclear" weapons.
Mr. Rumsfeld said no one in the Bush administration has given a "green light" to China to build up its nuclear arsenal.
The defense secretary said "it's unwritten exactly how China is going to engage the rest of the world and its neighbors."
"And certainly we ought to be doing everything we can to see that they engage the world in a peaceful and rational way," he said.
The DF-31 is the first of a new generation of Chinese strategic nuclear missiles. According to intelligence officials, the missile is expected to have a single warhead and a range of between 5,520 miles and 6,400 miles — enough to hit the western United States.
A longer-range variant, the DF-41, is also under development and will have a range of up to 8,000 miles. China also is building a submarine-launched version of the DF-31 known as the JL-2.
The DF-31 was first flight-tested in August 1999. A second flight test was carried out Nov. 4 during a visit to China by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The last flight test took place in December.
China's government has said it has a policy of not being the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict.
China's official military newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, stated in a Feb. 28, 2000, article that it would launch "a long distance strike" on the United States if Washington backed Taiwan in a conflict with China.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin announced in 1998 that China would not target its nuclear missiles at the United States, and the United States agreed to do the same.
However, nuclear weapons experts said the gesture is not militarily significant because nuclear weapons can be retargeted in minutes.
China appeared to undermine the detargeting gesture by conducting war games in late 1999 that simulated nuclear attacks on U.S. forces in Asia, according to intelligence officials.
Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military, said DF-31 deployments have been expected for some time, and a longer-range version could be built because of problems with the DF-41 program.
"China's strategic nuclear missile modernization is a self-contained enterprise that cannot be influenced by any change in American policy with regard to missile defense," he said. "The bottom line is we need a robust missile defense in place to deter China."
A classified U.S. Air Force intelligence report in 1996 said, "DF-31 ICBM will give China a major strike capability that will be difficult to counterattack at any stage of its operation."
The DF-31 is part of a "steadily increasing" Chinese strategic missile force that is currently limited to about 20 CSS-3 missiles with a 3,400-mile range, and about 20 CSS-4s with an 8,000-mile range.

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