Race for Nuclear Deterrence in The South China Sea and its Vicinity


On 9 April, CGTN reported citing a statement from the Chinese Embassy in the UK criticizing the US-UK-Australia trilateral agreement (AUKUS) on nuclear submarines (SSN) in the Pacific Ocean for service. US geopolitical strategy of Cold War alliances and confrontations in the Asia-Pacific with military deterrence.

America and its allies strengthen the battle

Accordingly,  the Chinese Embassy  in the UK said: “The AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation marks the first time that nuclear weapons countries have transferred reactors and weapons-grade enriched uranium to a nuclear-weapon-free state”.

Also yesterday, the South China Morning Post quoted Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as confident that even if Donald Trump becomes US president after the election in 2024, the agreement on nuclear submarines of AUKUS – which was achieved under the administration of President Joe Biden – will also not be changed.

The race for nuclear deterrence in the East Sea and its vicinity - Photo 1.
Virginia-class submarine visits HMAS Stirling military port in November 2022

Under the agreement to establish AUKUS in September 2021, by the 2030s, the US and UK will help the Australian Navy (RAN) build a force of at least 8 SSNs. At that time, in reply to Thanh Nien , Dr. James Holmes (Marine strategy expert – US Naval War College) commented: “It is estimated that an SSN operating from Australian ports could make a call. patrolling for 77 days in the South China Sea, while the Collins class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) owned by the Australian Navy can only reach 11 days.

“Thus, the SSN gives the Australian Navy the ability to maintain operations in the high seas, meaning Washington is helping its ally Canberra to increase its ability to prevent conflict or fight,” said Dr Holmes.

In March, Reuters quoted four US officials as revealing that Canberra planned to buy between three and five Virginia-class SSNs from Washington in the 2030s. This plan is part of the AUKUS deal. Regarding this agreement, on April 5, Nikkei Asia newspaper reported that Admiral Ryo Sakai, Chief of Staff of the  Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force,  visited the Australian military port of HMAS Stirling. This port is expected to be home to SSNs that Canberra will buy, as well as SSNs deployed by the US to Australia from 2027. At HMAS Stirling, Admiral Ryo Sakai emphasized that Canberra’s purchase of SSNs is “a extreme development”. extremely positive” and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will seek to strengthen cooperation with Australia.

China’s Ambition

In another development, Reuters published an analysis citing a recent report by the US Department of Defense that said that China is building up its nuclear weapons power.

Accordingly, Beijing regularly maintains at least one   ballistic missile-capable nuclear submarine (SSBN) in the South China Sea area This type of Chinese SSBN is equipped with the JL-3 intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead and is capable of reaching the United States. This information was given by General Anthony Cotton, commander of US Strategic Command, at a congressional hearing in March. Previously, the US military predicted that China would wait until the Type 096 SSBN was commissioned before deploying JL-3 for this ship. However, Beijing included the JL-3 in the existing SSBN without waiting for the completion of the Type 096.

So far, Beijing has not responded to the above information, but the fact that there is a lot of evidence that Chinese SSBNs have been present in the South China Sea and moved to the Indian Ocean makes India worried.

Answering Thanh Nien on April 8, Dr Holmes said: “The gold standard for nuclear deterrence is being able to strike back with a nuclear strike after being attacked by the enemy first.” The fact that one country can respond with such a nuclear will cause concern in other countries. Therefore, Beijing deploys SSBNs to the South China Sea and carries ballistic missiles that can contain nuclear warheads and can reach the US.

Also answering Thanh Nien on April 8, Assoc. Kei Koga (Program on Global Affairs and Public Policy – School of Social Sciences – Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) analyzed: “If information about the new move If China’s actions are correct, then this is Beijing’s action against Washington and its allies.”

“The most notable of the agreements between the US and its allies is the AUKUS, which aims to enhance Australia’s ability to project power in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, including the South China Sea. It will take several decades for Australia to continue. complete the procurement and operation of nuclear submarines with full manpower.In response to that plan, China wants to gain strategic advantage by deploying SSBNs operating in the South China Sea. to ensure the ability to strike back with nuclear,” said Assoc. 

Source: Thanh Nien