China is likely developing a long-range bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons and a space-based early warning system it could use to more quickly respond to an attack, according to a new report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
The development of the bomber, when combined with China’s land-based nuclear weapons program and a deployed submarine with intercontinental ballistic missile technology, would give Beijing a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems similar to the U.S. and Russia, according to the report published Tuesday.
“China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” the report’s author, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, said in the introduction.
Some of the report’s assertions are “extremely unprofessional” and “absurd,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, without specifying which aspects of the report she was referring to.
“The report disregards facts and is full of a Cold War and zero-sum mentality. The report speculates on China’s path, strategic intention and defense building,” Hua said. “We hope the U.S. military can view China’s growing military rationally and objectively and maintain the overall situation of military and bilateral relations.”
The report comes as President Donald Trump’s administration focuses on the potential for “great power” conflict with countries like China and Russia as part of its national defense strategy. It also comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, and continuing disputes about China’s posture in the South China Sea.
Beijing’s development of a nuclear-capable bomber would provide China with “its first credible nuclear triad of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air — a posture considered since the Cold War to improve survivability and strategic deterrence,” according to the report.
Even without the bomber, China is progressing on its new Jin-class nuclear submarines which, armed with JL-2 ICBMs, are “poised to contribute to China’s nuclear deterrent once they begin strategic patrols in the near future,” DIA said.