Chinese Kilo class submarine. Source: Wikipedia
A former rear admiral and commander of Japan‘s Maritime Self-Defence Force’s antisubmarine air wing has alleged that China’s sabre-rattling over the Diaoyu/Senkaku island chain is about more than a mere territorial dispute reports the Japan Times:
[Sumihiko] Kawamura believes Beijing is trying to turn the South China Sea into “a safe haven” for its nuclear-powered submarines, which are armed with ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. For that purpose, seizing the Senkakus — just 190 km east of Taiwan and close to the northern gateway to the South China Sea — is indispensable, Kawamura says.
Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are considered China’s only viable option to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent against the U.S., because America has identified all of China’s ICBM silos and could easily destroy them in a pre-emptive nuclear strike, he says.
“This is just the beginning. Even if it takes 100 years, Beijing will try to seize the islands” to turn the South China Sea into a safe haven for its missile subs, he said.
China’s desperation to control the entire South China Sea is due to Japan’s advanced anti-sub capabilities, Kawamura believes, “[We can] sink Chinese submarines any time we want if it comes to a showdown”.
“No option is left [for China] except for trying to make the South China Sea a safe haven and defending submarines carrying nuclear missiles there,” Kawamura said.
A draft report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, seen by Reuters, predicts that the Chinese navy is within two years of deploying submarine-launched nuclear weapons.
China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to be expanding its nuclear forces, the report said.
Beijing 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.”
In his opening speech to delegates at the 18th Party Congress, outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao called for more efforts to build China into a maritime power.
“We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power,” Hu said.
China remains out of key nuclear arms limitation and control conventions, including the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 2010 and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nculear Forces Treaty.