China and weapons of mass destruction

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Weapons of
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Chemical weapons
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See also
Dirty bomb
Radiological warfare
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The People's Republic of China is said to have an arsenal of 390 nuclear weapons stockpiled as of 1999. [1] ( Nuclear tests began in 1964. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was signed in 1996. China denies having either biological or chemical weapons, acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1984, and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1996.


Biological Weapons

Biological Weapons Program

Chinese officials have stated that China has never engaged in biological activities with offensive military applications.

US, UK, and Russian reports question this claim. According to unconfirmed sources, the Chinese may have operated an offensive biological weapons program in the 1980s and these efforts may continue to this day. In its 1998 annual report on arms control compliance, the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) stated that the United States believes that China had an offensive BW program prior to 1984 when it became a Party to the BWC, and maintained it throughout most of the 1980s.

In addition, The New York Times reported on April 5, 1999 that a senior Soviet defector, Kanatjan Alibekov, former director of one of the Soviet germ-warfare programs, said that China suffered a serious accident at one of its biological weapons plants in the late 1980s. Alibekov asserted that Soviet reconnaissance satellites had found a biological weapons laboratory and plant near a site for testing nuclear warheads. It was then allegedly discovered that two epidemics of hemorrhagic fever swept the region in the late 1980s. Soviet analysts assumed that they were caused by an accident in a lab where Chinese scientists were weaponizing viral diseases.

Biological Weapons Exports

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed her concerns over possible Chinese biological weapon transfers to Iran and other nations in a letter to Senator Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) in January 1997. Albright stated that she had received reports regarding transfers of dual-use items from Chinese entities to the Iranian government which concerned her and that the United States had to encourage China to adopt comprehensive export controls to prevent assistance to Iran's biological weapons program.

The United States acted upon the allegations on January 16, 2002, when it imposed sanctions on three Chinese firms accused of supplying Iran with materials used in the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons.

In response to this, China issued export control protocols on dual use biological technology in late 2002.

Chemical Weapons

China signed the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention) in January 13, 1993. The CWC was ratified April 25, 1997. (1)Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Signatory States to the Chemical Weapons Convention,"

Nuclear Weapons

Because of strict secrecy it is very difficult to determine the exact size and composition of China's nuclear forces. Force structure estimates are rather uncertain, but most estimates indicate roughly 20 ICBMs and several hundred intermediate and short range weapons. China is one of the five "Nuclear Weapons States" (NWS) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which China ratified in 1992.

China's last nuclear test was on July 29, 1996. According to the Australian Geological Survey Organization in Canberra the yield was 1 to 5 kilotons. This was China's 22nd underground test and 45th test overall.

China has made significant improvements in its miniaturization techniques since the 1980s. There have been accusations, notably by the Cox Commission that this was done primarily by covertly acquiring the US W-70 warhead design as well as ballistic missile guidance. Chinese scientists have stated that they have made advances in these areas, but insist that these advances were made indigenously without copying American designs.

The following is an estimate of China’s nuclear forces.

Land Based Intercontinental Ballistic and Cruise Missiles (ICBMs)

Although unconfirmed, most Western analysts believe China has deployed 20 DF-5 single-warhead, three-stage, liquid-fueled ICBMs since the 1980s. China has test-fired and either has or will deploy in the near future the next generation DF-31 solid-fuel ICBM.

Sea Based ICBMs

The People's Liberation Army Navy's SLBM inventory is relatively new. China launched its first nuclear armed submarine in April 1981. The Chinese navy currently has 5 Type 91 Hans at 5,000 tons displacement and 1 Type 92 Xias at roughly 8,000 tons displacement. The Type 91 is outfitted with 6 SLBM launching tubes and the Type 92 is equipped with 12. Chinas SLBM program is built around its JL-1 inventory. The Chinese Navy is estimated to have 24 JL-1s. The JL-1 is basically a modified DF-21.

The Chinese navy plans to replace its JL-1 with an unspecified number of the longer ranged, more modern JL-2s. Deployment on the JL-2 reportedly began in late 2003.

Heavy Bomber Group

China's bomber force is comprised of Chinese-made versions of Soviet aircraft. The People's Liberation Army Air Force currently has 20 H-5s (an Il-28 variant) and 120 H-6s (a Tu-16 Variant). All these are outfitted to carry nuclear as well as conventional weapons. Russia sold production rights to China in 1996 to assemble and produce Su-27s at China's Shenyang plant and China's air force has requested 200 Su-27s. The Su-27 is capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.

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