n the run-up to last week's committee vote to send the treaty to the floor for ratification this fall, U.S. senators quite rightly debated whether New START overly restrains U.S. missile-defense options, has weak verification procedures, cuts too many U.S. missiles or warheads (relative to Russian reductions) or might affect nuclear North Korea and near-nuclear Iran.
But lawmakers haven't yet fully faced the problem that, as we build down our strategic nuclear forces (by some 20 percent under New START) in the White House's hopes that others will disarm, China is involved in a strategic buildup.
So, before there's any final vote on an arms-control pact that would endure for the next 10 years, it'd be wise to give some thought to Beijing's burgeoning bevy of bombs.
While the exact shape of China's grand ambitions may not be clear, there's little question they exist. Few would dispute that Beijing wouldn't mind taking the head seat at the table of global powers, now occupied by Washington.
As such, China has been growing all aspects of its national power: political, economic and military. Nor is the last limited to a break-neck conventional buildup; its strategic forces are booming, too.
China long relied on a small, land-based nuclear force of ICBMs in fixed silos and on a limited number of road-mobile missiles, providing for a “sufficient and effective” deterrence in Beijing's eyes.
But the force has started getting bigger, better and badder. For instance, while the U.S. strategic arsenal desperately needs updating, Chinese nuclear forces are being modernized across the board.
And China's warhead numbers are up, by some estimates even doubling in recent years. The Pentagon says Beijing may now be able to put multiple nukes on a single, newly developed, road-mobile missile.
Indeed, if any country can undertake a so-called “rush to [nuclear] parity” with the United States and Russia, it's China, especially considering its aspirations, wealth and willingness to lavish largesse on its armed forces.
Basically, Beijing could become a nuclear peer competitor of Washington and Moscow in the not too distant future, in light of the expected arms cuts under New START.
More at http://www.chinapost.com.tw/commentary/the-china-post/peter-brookes/2010/09/23/273634/US-needs.htm