China’s Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent: Incremental Advances and Perennial Limitations

China Policy Institute: Analysis

Written by Renny Babiarz.

According to recent media reports, China may have initiated its first sea-based nuclear deterrence patrols with Jin-Class ballistic missile nuclear submarines (SSBNs). If true, this operational deployment demonstrably improves the credibility of China’s strategic nuclear deterrent. While some may characterize China’s sea-based nuclear deterrence patrols as a new security threat, China’s emergent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability has long been expected. It represents a significant technical advance, but not an alarming one. Facing geographic and technical constraints, the submarines’ activities in the Pacific Ocean will remain limited in the near term.

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