WASHINGTON -- China is expected to have as many as 100 long-range nuclear missiles aimed at the United States by 2015, many of them on hard-to-find mobile launchers, a new CIA report says.
China sees a larger, mobile force as necessary to maintain its nuclear deterrent against the United States, says the report, "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015."
China on Thursday dismissed the report as "baseless speculation."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said China would strengthen its national defense "in accordance with its own needs."
The CIA report, released Wednesday, also says North Korea and Iran will probably possess long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States by the same year.
Similar assessments have been used to justify U.S. plans for multibillion-dollar missile defense systems capable of shooting down a limited ICBM attack on the continental United States.
Last month President Bush used the threat of missile attack by terrorists as a reason for the United States to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia.
"I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks," the president said.
But the new report says terrorists aren't expected to employ long-range missiles to deliver nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction on the United States.
"Ships, trucks, airplanes and other means may be used," it says. Hostile countries may employ similar means, it says.
These delivery methods can be used covertly, are cheaper and more accurate than non-U.S. ICBMs, and avoid any missile defenses, the report says.
Currently, China has about 20 silos with CSS-4 nuclear ICBMs that are capable of reaching the United States, the report says. Another dozen nuclear missiles can reach targets in Russia and Asia. It also has a few medium-range submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and probably only one submarine from which to launch them.
The report is an unclassified summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, which draws together information and analyses from the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies about foreign countries' missile development programs.
The Chinese military is developing three new missile systems, two truck-launched missiles and a new submarine-launched missile, all of which could be fielded by 2010, the report says. The Chinese may also be able to mount multiple-independent re-entry vehicles -- MIRVs -- on its older silo-based missiles. These enable a single missile to launch warheads at several targets, vastly increasing the missile's potential damage.
China sees an expanded ICBM force as necessary to overcome a U.S. missile defense system -- and therefore maintain its ability to strike the U.S. mainland. This would provide a deterrent during a conflict over Taiwan.
While U.S. officials insist the missile defense program is to defeat strikes by North Korea and other "rogue" nations, some of those proposed defenses might be sufficient to shoot down all 20 Chinese ICBMs. Analysts say that having a missile defense system would give the U.S. more freedom to go to war over Taiwan, should China invade it.
One hundred missiles would be too many for most of the missile defense systems envisioned by the Pentagon, ensuring that China has a deterrent against U.S. entry into a fight over Taiwan.
"Beijing is concerned about the survivability of its strategic deterrent against the United States and has a long-range modernization program to develop mobile, solid-propellant ICBMs," the report says.
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