A potential new affirmative and at-minimum some scary impact uniqueness may be emerging for our U.S.-China debate topic. China has announced that they plan to deploy nuclear submarines to the South China Sea, in response to the United States nuclear missile defense that’s planned for South Korea. China has primarily practiced a defensive no-first-use posture with their nuclear program. Instead planning to overwhelm an attacking country with a large second strike. China’s policy of keeping their war heads separate from their missiles have shown proof of such a policy. This could all change if China follows through on their threat to deploy nuclear submarines, because it would require them to put the nuclear missiles together and give them to their navy.
China’s concern is that their nuclear deterrence is being threatened by the U.S.’s new Thaad anti-ballistic system to be created in South Korea. Their second strike posture could suffer with an anti-ballistic system that close to their landbased launch systems. The U.S. is also developing hypersonic glide missiles that have the potential of landing anywhere inside of an hour, which could also incapacitate their launch capabilities before they have a potential to react.
China’s hope is that by mobilizing submarines with nuclear capabilities, that they would recapture an aspect of their second strike deterrent. What the Guardian article warns is that this could merit an arms race-like response from the United States that would then continue to escalate tensions.
And all of this is happening with the already escalating South China Sea tensions in the background. Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Non Proliferation Programme at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, warns that this is just a misunderstanding of the two countries’ intentions, but that that misunderstanding can cause actual conflict. He states that: “The two sides may thus be stumbling blindly into severe crisis instability and growing competition by China with respect to strategic force. A competition between unevenly matched forces is inherently unstable.”
You can read the Guardian’s exclusive article here.