- China is making final preparations to test fire a new
mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that the CIA believes will incorporate
stolen U.S. missile and warhead secrets, The Washington Times has learned.
- Preparations for the launch of the road-mobile DF-31
-- which could take place as early as next week -- were spotted by U.S.
spy satellites at Wuzhai in central China and reported in classified U.S.
intelligence reports earlier this month, said U.S. intelligence officials
familiar with the reports.
- "They are getting ready for a launch," one
- The official said one U.S. intelligence agency assessed
the DF-31 test missile to be capable of carrying a 2-and-a-half-megaton
warhead. A megaton is the equivalent of a million tons of TNT.
- Other intelligence estimates have said the DF-31 warhead
size will be smaller, closer to the 100- to 200-kiloton range that is similar
to compact U.S. nuclear warheads.
- China's two dozen CSS-4 long-range ICBMs each carry a
five-megaton warhead and the CIA reported last year that at least 13 of
those missiles were targeted on U.S. cities.
- Officials said they were viewing the signs of an impending
missile test with caution because an earlier test firing set for December
was scrapped, possibly to wait for warmer weather.
- The 5,000-mile-range missile will be able to hit targets
in parts of the western United States.
- According to a report released last month by a special
House panel investigating Chinese espionage, the DF-31 is likely to be
the first missile in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) arsenal to incorporate
stolen U.S. warhead design technology, including either the advanced W-88
warhead, or the older W-70 warhead used on short-range Lance missiles.
- "The DF-31 ICBM and the PRC's other new generation
mobile ICBMs will require smaller, more compact warheads," said the
report by a committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican.
"The stolen U.S. information on the W-70 or W-88 Trident D-5 will
be useful for this purpose." The D-5 is the most advanced U.S. submarine-launched
- The report said the DF-31 could be ready for operational
deployment by 2002 if tests are successful. It said the DF-31, one of three
new mobile ICBMs the Chinese are developing, could be tested this year.
- The CIA also stated in a damage assessment produced earlier
this year on Chinese nuclear spying that Beijing's nuclear espionage helped
advance China's strategic nuclear missile program. The stolen design information
is expected to appear in the next generation of strategic weapons, like
the DF-31 and a longer-range version, the DF-41, in a few years, the agency
- Regarding the impending flight test, U.S. intelligence
agencies are closely monitoring the Wuzhai Missile and Space Test Center,
about 400 miles southwest of Beijing, where the DF-31 is being built. The
missile was photographed there by a spy satellite in October 1996, when
silos related to tests were also spotted.
- Intelligence monitors, including satellites and reconnaissance
aircraft, are watching the Wuzhai site for the test and officials said
they will be looking out for whether China makes the jump from a large
single warhead to small, multiple warheads. The first flight test of the
DF-31 took place in May 1995 and other missile tests showed China's use
of "penetration aids" --dummy warheads designed to fool missile
- China has been working slowly on the new DF-31 and last
tested its rocket motor during President Clinton's visit to China a year
ago. The July 1 test, according to some Pentagon officials, was an "ejection
test" of the DF-31 missile. Its timing was viewed as a political signal
to the United States, coming as it did during the summit, these officials
- A White House spokesman at the time sought to play down
the significance of the test as simply part of China's nuclear modernization
program, which the Clinton administration does not appear to oppose.
- A classified 1996 report by the Air Force's National
Air Intelligence Center (NAIC), states that the DF-31 is a single-warhead
missile with a range of more than 4,500 miles that was in the "late
stages" of development.
- The missile, only the second road-mobile ICBM in the
world after Russia's SS-25s and SS-27s, uses solid-fuel propulsion that
will be a major improvement over China's liquid-fuel CSS-4 missiles, the
current mainstay of the Chinese ICBM force.
- "The DF-31 ICBM will give China a major strike capability
that will be difficult to counterattack at any stage of its operation,"
states the Air Force report, labeled "secret." "It will
be a significant threat not only to U.S. forces deployed in the Pacific
theater, but to portions of the continental United States and to many of
- The Air Force report contained a map showing the range
of DF-31 to be sufficient for it to hit targets throughout the western
United States along a line running southwest from Wisconsin through California.
- According to the Air Force, the DF-31 will provide a
boost to China's strategic missile design "similar to those of current
generation Russian missiles." The report also said the missile will
probably be fitted with decoys and chaff to defeat missile defenses.
- A longer-range version of the DF-31, known as the DF-41,
will have a 7,000-mile range, enough to hit targets throughout the United
States. The DF-41 is expected to be deployed soon after the DF-31.
- The Chinese are developing a submarine-launched version
of the DF-31 known as the JL-2 with an even longer range that will be deployed
on China's Type 094-class nuclear missile submarines. The JL-2 will have
a range of 7,500 miles that "will allow it to be launched from the
PRC's territorial waters and to strike targets throughout the United States,"
the Cox committee report said.