Frightening Pentagon report warns that China, North Korea and Iran will soon be armed with nuclear missiles capable of striking the United States
By JAMES NYE
PUBLISHED: 18:38 EST, 11 July 2013 | UPDATED: 18:40 EST, 11 July 2013
A sobering assessment of the nuclear threat the United States faces over the next decade has been published – which has been jumped upon by supporters of the beleaguered missile defense shield.
The Pentagon report states that China, Iran and North Korea are aggressively developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the United States and proliferation among these nations of technology is rife.
According to the Department of Defense, China, marked as the chief rival of the U.S. over the next century, will imminently be able to deploy submarine-launched ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States from Chinese territorial waters.
The 2013 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Assessment, produced by the Department of Defense’s National Air and and Space Intelligence Center, adds that the number of Chinese land-based nuclear missiles able to hit the U.S. ‘could expand to well over 100 within the next 15 years’.
Indeed, Beijing’s growing nuclear arsenal will soon include the submarine launched JL-2 ballistic missile which has a range of 4,500 miles – and the Communist country whose defense budget has grown exponentially over the past decade will launch these from its new Jin Class subs.
As the Obama administration and the United States continues its much vaunted ‘pivot’ to the Pacific, some are worried by the lack of progress in the United States’ troubled missile defense shield – which to date has cost $35 billion.
‘For too long the Obama administration has allowed our missile defense program to languish when they should have been working to prepare for these imminent threats,’ said Rep. Michael Turner, a Ohio Republican and a member of the House Committee for Armed Services.
The report also confirms the revelation, first reported by The Washington Times, that rogue state North Korea has already deployed its new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, known as the Hwasong-13.
In theory, military analysts predict that the Hwasong-13 is capable of flying 3,500 miles – but the Pentagon report also states that the missile has yet to be tested by the secretive communist nation – although during the recent military stand-off between North and South Korea, a test-flight was threatened.
‘North Korea has an ambitious ballistic missile development program and has exported missiles and missile technology to other countries, including Iran and Pakistan,’ says the assessment, which was released this week.
Worryingly for Israel and the West, the Department of Defense report confirms the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran is set to test an ICBM as early as 2015 – a prediction which should set off red lights in the White House.
‘Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and continues to attempt to increase the range, lethality, and accuracy of its ballistic missile force,’ the assessment states.
In March, China announced it was to boost military spending by 11.2 percent this year in response to President Obama’s Asian ‘pivot’.
China announced a 10.7 percent increase in military spending to $114 billion in March, the Pentagon report said. Publicly announced defense spending for 2012 was $106 billion, but actual pending for 2012 could range between $135 billion and $215 billion, it said.
U.S. defense spending is more than double that, at more than $500 billion.Asian neighbors, however, have been nervous about Beijing’s expanding military, and this double-digit rise could reinforce disquiet in Japan, India, Southeast Asia and self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.
Obama has sought to reassure Asian allies that the United States will stay a key player in the area, and the Pentagon has said it will ‘rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region’.
‘Eleven percent, for a Chinese defense budget, is what I would characterize as a reasonably sizeable increase,’ said C. Uday Bhaskar, a former director of India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.
Beijing has sought to balance long-standing wariness about U.S. intentions with steady relations with Washington, especially as both governments focus on domestic politics this year, when Obama faces a re-election fight and China’s ruling Communist Party undergoes a leadership handover.
But the U.S. ‘pivot’ has fanned unease in China, with some PLA officers calling it an effort to fence in their country and frustrate Beijing’s territorial claims.
China has advertised its long-term military ambitions with shows of new hardware, including its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet in early 2011 and its launch of a fledgling aircraft carrier in August – both trials of technologies that remain years from deployment.
Beijing is also building new submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernization.
Japan and China have locked horns over islands each claims in the East China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations have challenged Beijing over claims to swathes of the South China Sea that could be rich in oil and gas.
A spokesman for Philippines’ Department of National Defence, Peter Paul Galvez, said the latest increase in PLA spending was not cause for alarm. Others were more anxious.
‘China shares its land border with 14 countries; it used to make sense that a country in such a position maintains strong conventional forces,’ said Kazuya Sakamoto, a professor at Osaka University in Japan who researches international security.
‘But in this nuclear age, it does not really make sense that China, a nuclear-armed country, continues to build up its military at such a pace.’