OPINION / VIEWPOINT
WashPost-quoted researcher amateur to say suspected silos are for DF-41
Published: Jul 02, 2021 12:01 PM
The formation of Dongfeng-41 nuclear missiles takes part in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Xia Yifang)

The formation of Dongfeng-41 nuclear missiles takes part in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Xia Yifang)


The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that China has begun the construction of 119 nearly identical sites in a desert near the northwestern city of Yumen, Gansu Province. The report claimed that researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California judged from the commercial satellite images that these construction sites contain features that mirror those seen at existing launch facilities for China's arsenal of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Thus they asserted that China is building more than 100 new missile silos, which, if completed, would represent a "historic shift" for China's nuclear arsenal. 

The report also cited an expert from the nonproliferation studies center that such construction boom suggests a major effort to bolster the credibility of China's nuclear deterrent, and the scale of the building spree was "incredible."

The researcher, Jeffrey Lewis, also told the Washington Post that the silos are probably intended for DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles which can carry multiple warheads and reach targets as far as the US mainland. 

It's unknown if the construction sites mentioned by the Washington Post are really silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles. But I must say that Lewis is an amateur. In reality, DF-41 is solid-fueled road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and one of its biggest advantages is its mobility and vitality. There is no point to put it inside a silo. Lewis may not understand the basic features of DF-41 before shooting off his mouth at the media.

Silos are of course very important. They can store high-thrust liquid-fuel intercontinental missiles and carry higher-yield nuclear warheads. Silos are an important part of the nuclear power of major powers. China certainly has reasons to build them. However, real silos are often built at the same time as decoy silos. The actual distribution of silos is a top secret of nuclear powers. 

I believe Washington Post produced the report in cooperation with US think tank with the aim to put pressure on China. It wanted to force China to issue a statement regarding its nuclear plan and squeeze the room for China's nuclear development through public opinion pressure. I suggest the Chinese side ignore this report and other similar reports in Western media. China should neither confirm nor deny such "revelation" and let the Western media imagine it. This is what nuclear deterrent means. By doing so China will smash any US attempt to suppress China's nuclear capacity building.  

China must continue to strengthen its nuclear deterrence. How this is accomplished is a decision made within China's sovereign rights as a nuclear power. The Chinese side has no obligation to respond to Western media reports which have clear ulterior motives. We must now be constrained by those reports. 

The author is editor-in-chief with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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