Financial Times

Submarine-launched missile to be tested

London, 3 June 1999

Weapon could carry nuclear warhead and have a range of 5,000 miles, write James Kynge in Beijing and Stephen Fidler in Washington

China plans this year to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 miles, a decision that may raise tensions in the region and concern in Washington.

The Julang II (JL II) missile, being developed to carry a nuclear warhead, would have the longest range of any sea-launched missile in China's armoury.

Beijing already has about 18 land-based Dongfeng 5 nuclear missiles which, with a range of 8,000 miles, bring most of the US within striking distance.

The unusual announcement of the test came in a respected official journal, Weekly Digest. It coincides with a swelling tide of nationalism in China following Nato's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, and a gathering belief among Beijing's leaders that the US is preparing a cold war policy of containment against it.

Last week, a House of Representatives panel chaired by Christopher Cox, a California Republican, published a controversial report covering transfers of US technology to China. That has heightened US sensitivity to China's military ambitions.

Military analysts said the announcement might have been timed to satisfy recent demands from an increasingly influential People's Liberation Army (PLA) to develop a greater ability to project power well beyond the Chinese mainland.

The missile's range is expected to be about three to five times that of its predecessor, the JL I. The manoeuvrability of submarines would also give Beijing the ability to launch an attack far from China's shores. Military analysts said the JL II might not become operational until around 2002 or later.

They also said that China had yet to deploy the type of nuclear submarine - the Type 094 class - on which the missiles would be sited, 16 to a vessel.

Richard Fisher, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the Type 094 was not expected to be deployed until the middle of the next decade.

The Cox report described the JL II as capable of striking targets throughout the continental US if launched from Chinese territorial waters. However, this statement is based on an assumed range of 7,500 miles - a figure disputed elsewhere in the report and by private analysts who say that they believe the Chinese figure of 8,000km (5,000 miles) is about right.

The Cox report said the solid-fuel JL II is a version of the land- launched Dongfeng 31 missile, which it said could be tested this year and deployed by early 2002. Both missiles, the report suggested, would incorporate a variety of technologies obtained from US sources and carry a warhead using technology the report said had been stolen from US national laboratories.

The prospect of deployment may unsettle some of China's neighbours and other regional powers such as India. New Delhi cited a perceived threat from China as one of the main reasons for its decision to go ahead with nuclear tests last year.