China’s New Ballistic Missile Marks New Chapter in Global Nuclear Deterrence



China is developing a new sea-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Julang-3 (JL-3), according to local media.
The development of the JL-3 missile was initially reported on several years ago. It’s expected that the new missile will be part of the advanced nuclear-powered submarine project 096.
Earlier this month, Chinese websites published pictures showing the project 032  submarine, the world’s largest conventionally powered submarine, undergoing tests. The submarine underwent re-fitting work at a shipyard in Dalian. In Dalian, the submarine received new silos capable of housing a larger missile.
Currently, the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has four 094/094G project nuclear-powered missile submarines. They carry the JL-2 missile. This is the first fully operational maritime component of the Chinese nuclear triad.
Vasily Kashin, a military expert and senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke to us about the possible role of the JL-3 missile for China’s strategic interests.
Kashin underscored that the development of the new ICBM is dictated by the fact that current Chinese potential for nuclear deterrence is insufficient.
"Despite the fact that the JL-2 has a relatively decent operational range (7,400-8,000 km, according to different sources), its capability to deter the United States is limited. China’s nuclear submarines operate in the South China Sea. At the same time, they are likely to face problems while leaving China’s territorial waters due to the activities of the US and Japanese naval forces," Kashin told us.
According to  Kashin, the JL-2 missile would be unable to reach the continental US in the event of a military conflict.
"They could be used against US allies and American bases in Asia, but their role in deterrence is minor. In order to boost its sea-based strategic nuclear forces, China needs a missile with a range of 11,000-13,000 kilometers, preferably with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle," Kashin pointed out.
At the time, the JL-2 underwent a long and challenging series of tests, with a number of failures and delays. One of the failures nearly resulted in the destruction of the testing submarine. The problem was  resolved only in 2012.

At the same time, Kashin suggested that the development of the JL-3 missile will be much less troubled.
"The difference between the JL-3 and JL-2 are not as major as that between the JL-2 and the JL-1, China’s first submarine-based ballistic missile. China will use its experience in missile development to avoid repeating its previous mistakes and speed up the creation of a new missile," Kashin concluded.

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