China maintains the fastest growing fleet of ballistic and cruise missiles on the planet, and soon will deploy a nuclear-tipped, submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States from Chinese waters, according to a new Pentagon report.
Beijing's swelling missile arsenal includes a new submarine-launched JL-2 ballistic missile that will for the first time enable Chinese submarines to strike parts of the United States from China's coastal waters, states the 2013 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Assessment, produced by the Department of Defense's National Air and Space Intelligence Center.
It adds that the number of Chinese ICBM nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States "could expand to well over 100 within the next 15 years."
Supporters of the U.S. military's beleaguered missile defense plans seized on the assessment, saying it underscores the need to push ahead with the controversial programs, which are derided by critics as too expensive and ineffective.
"For too long the Obama administration has allowed our missile defense program to languish when they should have been working to prepare for these imminent threats," Rep. Michael Turner, Ohio Republican and a member of the House Committee for Armed Services.
The report also confirms the revelation, first reported by The Washington Times, that North Korea last year deployed a new, road-mobile inter-continental ballistic missile, or ICBM — the Hwasong-13. The authors of the report note that the missile has not been flight-tested, and say the number of its stages, its fuel and its range are unknown.
"North Korea has an ambitious ballistic missile development program and has exported missiles and missile technology to other countries, including Iran and Pakistan," says the assessment, which was released this week.
The report repeats the assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States as early as 2015.
"Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and continues to attempt to increase the range, lethality, and accuracy of its ballistic missile force," the assessment states.
The Department of Defense's National Air and Space Intelligence Center is based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.