While budget cuts may force the United States to delay modernizing its nuclear arsenal, U.S. Representative Michael Turner warned Friday of efforts by China to safeguard its own strategic nuclear capabilities through the use of an extensive tunnel system. From The China Post:
“This network of tunnels could be in excess of 5,000 kilometers (3,110 miles), and is used to transport nuclear weapons and forces,” said Michael Turner, who chairs a House Armed Services Committee panel focusing on strategic weapons and other security programs.
“As we strive to make our nuclear forces more transparent, China is building this underground tunnel system to make its nuclear forces even more opaque,” he added, citing an unclassified Department of Defense report.
The tunnels would allow China to launch a nuclear counter-attack if it was hit by a nuclear strike. “It’s almost mind-boggling,” said an analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy.
“It has enormous implications in terms of their view toward nuclear warfare, survivability of their systems and their leadership in the event of war.”
In 2009, a People’s Liberation Army publication revealed the existence of the tunnels, known as the “Underground Great Wall.” From The Chosun Ilbo:
Since 1995, the Second Artillery Division has mobilized tens of thousands of soldiers to build a network of tunnels stretching for more than 5,000 km below the mountain regions of Hebei, China’s state-run CCTV reported. “A missile base has been built hundreds of meters underground and can withstand several nuclear attacks,” CCTV said. “People refer to the network of tunnels connecting to the missile base as the ‘Underground Great Wall.'” In March 2008, CCTV broadcast a documentary which revealed that the PLA had been building underground facilities enabling it to launch a counterstrike in case of a nuclear attack.
Taiwan’s Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine also said, “The early version of China’s mid- to long-range missiles had all been deployed above ground and were vulnerable to detection by spy satellites and attacks by interceptor missiles. That prompted the Chinese military to move all of their missiles hundreds of meters underground.” As a result, the squadrons of the PLA deployed there are completely undetectable because they are based in subterranean bunkers and move around beneath the surface.
See also previous coverage of China’s nuclear weapons plans and the concerns of U.S. officials over the threat of a modern Chinese nuclear arsenal.