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Not necessary to increase USA’s nuclear arsenal – China’s goal is defence – a stronger-second strike arsenal.

We Don’t Need a Better Nuclear Arsenal to Take on China

The military’s arguments for a nuclear overhaul are unconvincing. Slate, BY FRED KAPLAN, APRIL 23, 2021

This week, top military officers launched their big push on Capitol Hill for a total overhaul of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, at an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion over the next 30 years, and their top rationale—the go-to rationale for just about every large federal program these days—was the threat from China.

Their case was less than compelling

Yes, China is displaying some bellicose behavior these days, economically, politically, and militarily. But a new generation of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, cruise missiles, and submarines would do nothing to deal with the problem.

Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, which runs plans and operations for the nuclear arsenal, laid out his case in hearings before House and subcommittees on strategic forces. He noted that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal at an “unprecedented” pace, on course to double in size by the end of the decade. It’s building more solid-fuel missiles, which can be launched right away (older liquid-fuel missiles require hours to load). It’s also building better early-warning radar, putting some of its ICBMs on trucks and moving them around. It might have adopted a launch-on-warning policy.

But all of this adds up to something less alarming than Richard’s rhetoric suggested—namely that the People’s Liberation Army is improving its ability to detect, and respond to, a nuclear attack on the Chinese homeland. Even if the Chinese doubled the size of their arsenal, which would give them about 600 nuclear weapons instead of the current 300, it would be well under half the size of the U.S. arsenal, so they would have no ability to launch a first strike against us.

In other words, China seems to be building a more potent second-strike arsenal—what we in the West would call a deterrent—perhaps in the face of Russia’s build-up of medium-range missiles and America’s development of a missile-defense force. This is troubling only to the extent it means that the United States would have a hard time launching a nuclear first-strike against China.

This is a bit troubling, but for reasons that seem less so, the more deeply the problem is analyzed. China’s military strategy is to establish hegemony in the region—especially in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea—and to prevent U.S. air and naval forces from intervening in this area. Beijing has made progress toward this goal by declaring some small islands, which are clearly in international waters, to be Chinese territory and converting them into military bases. It has also built and deployed hundreds of missiles that can attack ships, even large ones, with steadily improving accuracy and steadily longer range. China has also improved its ability to hit satellites and sensors in outer space (through cyber and more conventional means). Again, the goal is to keep the U.S. from intervening in Chinese military ventures. The American trump card in any such conflict has long been its nuclear arsenal (whether any president actually would use nukes to protect, say, Taiwan is another matter), but if China has its own potent nuclear deterrent, this card’s value is reduced: if we attack them, they can attack us……..

But all of this adds up to something less alarming than Richard’s rhetoric suggested—namely that the People’s Liberation Army is improving its ability to detect, and respond to, a nuclear attack on the Chinese homeland. Even if the Chinese doubled the size of their arsenal, which would give them about 600 nuclear weapons instead of the current 300, it would be well under half the size of the U.S. arsenal, so they would have no ability to launch a first strike against us.

n other words, China seems to be building a more potent second-strike arsenal—what we in the West would call a deterrent—perhaps in the face of Russia’s build-up of medium-range missiles and America’s development of a missile-defense force. This is troubling only to the extent it means that the United States would have a hard time launching a nuclear first-strike against China.

This is a bit troubling, but for reasons that seem less so, the more deeply the problem is analyzed. China’s military strategy is to establish hegemony in the region—especially in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea—and to prevent U.S. air and naval forces from intervening in this area. Beijing has made progress toward this goal by declaring some small islands, which are clearly in international waters, to be  Chinese territory and converting them into military bases. It has also built and deployed hundreds of missiles that can attack ships, even large ones, with steadily improving accuracy and steadily longer range. China has also improved its ability to hit satellites and sensors in outer space (through cyber and more conventional means). Again, the goal is to keep the U.S. from intervening in Chinese military ventures. The American trump card in any such conflict has long been its nuclear arsenal (whether any president actually would use nukes to protect, say, Taiwan is another matter), but if China has its own potent nuclear deterrent, this card’s value is reduced: if we attack them, they can attack us.

……. the main point is this: We would gain no leverage in this scenario by building new ICBMs, bombers, cruise missiles, or submarines. To the extent these sorts of weapons loom as the ultimate deterrent, as a sort of overlord to any military competition, we already have plenty.

………. There will be fierce resistance to any slowdown of the strategic juggernaut. Most members of the congressional armed services committees regard the Nuclear Triad with the same veneration that Catholics bestow to the Holy Trinity. When they ask a witness if he believes in the Triad, they do so with a quivering tone, as if they were priests asking a supplicant if he believes in God.

At the same time, budget pressures are rousing some lawmakers to mull, a bit more deeply than before, whether so many nukes are necessary, whether they all have to be 100 percent reliable to deter adversaries from aggression, whether the recondite scenarios and theories of the nuclear game are quite real. It’s long past time to demystify the nuclear enterprise, to strip away the fear and trembling, and ask how many weapons are needed to do what.  https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/04/nuclear-triad-overhaul-china.html

April 24, 2021 - Posted by | China, USA, weapons and war

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