Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is the PLA hiding underneath Hebei?

Many questions surround China’s nuclear policy. The construction of a 5,000km tunnel, ostensibly to shelter its nuclear arsenal, is raising even more

Military watchers in recent years have made much of the rapid modernization of China’s military, focusing primarily on the introduction of new platforms, such as the J-20 stealth fighter and the refurbished Varyag aircraft carrier, or advances in missile technology, such as the Dong Feng-21D “carrier killer.” 

To a large extent, this is also what the US Department of Defense’s latest report on the Chinese military released last week zeroed in on.

However, since 1995, tens of thousands of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been working on a project that, to date, has attracted surprisingly little attention. That this is the case befuddles the mind, as this endeavor, first revealed in a 2008 CCTV documentary and confirmed by the PLA’s China Defense Daily in December 2009, has the potential to alter the strategic balance in the Pacific. Stunningly, the new Pentagon report only makes one brief mention of that development.

The project in question is a 5,000km tunnel, dubbed the “underground Great Wall,” which the Second Artillery has been digging in the mountainous regions of Hebei Province. The Second Artillery is in charge of China’s ballistic missile arsenal, including its strategic nuclear deterrent, though the latter falls under direct command of the Central Military Commission.

According to reports, the tunnel is being built to store China’s nuclear arsenal.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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