An underground tunnel of the Second Artillery Corps, China's strategic missile force. (Internet photo)
To counter a Chinese nuclear threat, the United States must entertain using nuclear strikes to "neutralize" any underground weapons storage installations in a future confrontation with the rising power, according to an act signed into law in Jan. 2, reports the Washington-based Defense News.
The National Defense Authorization Act confirmed by President Barack Obama last week requires the US Strategic Command to submit a report by Aug. 15 regarding a probable Chinese underground tunnel network used by the People's Liberation Army as a nuclear weapons storage facility. The report will also include details pertaining to the US ability to use conventional or nuclear forces to destroy such tunnels. China's nuclear deterrence strategy and a comparison of both countries' nuclear arsenals will also be reviewed.
By recognizing the Japanese administration over the disputed Diaoyutai islands (Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan) and supporting the sale of advanced F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan's air force, the National Defense Authorization Act underscores the Pentagon's strong concern over China's military modernization. Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist from Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the US government is likely to suffer diplomatic consequences.
Phillip Karber also from the center has researched China's 3,000 miles of underground tunnels. In a report titled "Strategic Implications of China's Underground Great Wall" published in 2011, Karber and his team estimate some 3,000 nuclear warheads may be hidden underground at several locations across the country. This is a much greater number from the conventional estimates from US intelligent agencies which put China's nuclear arsenal at around 300 warheads. For this reason, Karber believes the Strategic Command's report will be worthless as it would be impossible for the US to wipe out China's nuclear arsenal all at once.
Hans Kristensen, director of Federation of American Scientists' Nuclear Information Project states that the National Defense Authorization Act has increased the danger of war between China and the US. Pointing out that China is viewed as "a small Soviet Union" by the US congress, Kristensen said, "The two countries are dancing a dangerous dance that will increase military tension and could potentially lead to a small Cold War in the Pacific."