China to Send Nuclear-armed Submarines to the Pacific

The Chinese military announced plans to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The move may accelerate the ongoing arms race in the South China Sea.

Chinese officials have said the submarines are necessary in response to the United States’ announcement that it would deploy Thaad anti-ballistic interceptors in South Korea to protect against North Korea. The Thaad system’s range extends across much of China, according to Beijing.

In the past, China had stored its nuclear warheads and missiles separately, which would delay launch. Deploying nuclear-armed submarines means handing both over to the Navy, which can then retaliate immediately, even if China’s land bases are compromised.

The announcement of nuclear patrols adds to the already tense standoff in the South China Sea between China and several other nations over contested islands.

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