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China focuses on nukes as tensions with U.S. rise

After Trump questioned Washington’s unqualified support for Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.

December 18, 2016 06:04 pm | Updated 06:08 pm IST - BEIJING:

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has quoted the country’s Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian as saying that Beijing is developing the next-generation long-range bombers. The report said that the remarks by General Ma confirmed the development of the “legendary H-20” bomber.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has quoted the country’s Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian as saying that Beijing is developing the next-generation long-range bombers. The report said that the remarks by General Ma confirmed the development of the “legendary H-20” bomber.

China appears to be engaged in rapidly developing a long-range bomber, to fortify its nuclear deterrent — a move that is acquiring sharper focus after the United States President-elect Donald Trump questioned Washington’s unqualified support for Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.

The state-run Xinhua news agency is relaying comments attributed to China’s Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian that Beijing is developing the next-generation long-range bombers. The report said that the remarks by Gen. Ma confirmed the development of the “legendary H-20” bomber.

So far, it hasn’t done it

The report quoted Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA Navy’s Expert Consultation Committee, as saying that China has so far not developed a large-tonnage, and long-range strategic bomber. The existing H-6 bomber that is in service is medium-sized, and not a strategic bomber. He added that China’s new range of strategic bombers will be at par with B-2 bombers of the United States, and have difficult-to-spot stealth features.

Admiral Yin noted that China has three specific advantages in developing the H-20 bomber. First, the developers can derive stealth technology from the J-20 and J-31 fighters — two China built stealth fighters. Second, China has already manufactured large transport aircraft such as the Y-20 and C-919, which can yield know-how to build big-sized strategic bombers. Besides, the new generation bombers can be armed with cruise missiles, nuclear and other weapons, which are already available in the Chinese arsenal. As a result of these advantages in materials, design and weaponry, the time lines for developing the H-20 can be shortened, though a typical cycle for making strategic bombers is around 10 years.

Trump may change status quo?

Following Mr. Trump’s election and his perceived inclination to change the status quo with Beijing, an op-ed in Global Times , affiliated with the Communist Party of China (CPC), had advocated the rapid development of the land based DF-41 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The DF-41 missile, which is undergoing trials, can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. With a range of around 12,000 kilometers, it can target the entire U.S. mainland, if launched from eastern China.

The Washington Free Beacon — an online newspaper — is quoting experts as saying that China is reconfiguring its entire range of land based atomic missiles, by enabling them to carry multiple warheads. That includes changes in the single warhead DF-5 as well as the DF-31 missiles.

Besides, China is modernising its more survivable sea based deterrent-necessary for a retaliatory nuclear second strike — by adding multiple warheads to its JI-2 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM). The new missile will be either called JL-2C or JL-3.

Drone seizure deepens rift

The seizure of a U.S. underwater drone by China on Thursday near Subic Bay in the South China Sea has added to the growing friction between Beijing and the Trump administration-in-waiting.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the incident took place when the U.S. oceanographic survey ship Bowditch was about to retrieve the drone, which was used to collect data on salinity and water temperature.

But Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun defended China’s action. “We had to examine and verify the device in a bid to avoid any harm it might cause to the safety of navigation and personnel,” he said in a statement issued late on Saturday night. He added that the drone would be returned “in an appropriate manner.”

Trump’s tweet and tit-for-tat

Mr. Trump has waded into the drone controversy with a tweet, which said that, "We should tell China that we dont want the drone they stole back — let them keep it!”

His tweet triggered a cyberstorm in the Chinese social media. “Next time we will capture the US aircraft carrier without asking, since boss Trump is so generous,” said a posting on Sina Weibo, Chinese equivalent of Twitter. “What are you so arrogant for? We will return it once it is disassembled,” commented another on the micro-blogging site.

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