Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Tuesday 05 Jul 2022 | 11:23 | SYDNEY

pca south china sea ruling

The dangers of SSBN proliferation in Indo-Pacific Asia

  It has become commonplace to lament the arms races underway in Indo-Pacific Asia. China's military modernisation over the last two decades has helped provoke heightened political tensions and growing concern in capitals from Tokyo to New Delhi to Washington and Moscow. North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems keeps tensions in Northeast Asia high. The Indian subcontinent is home to two nuclear powers that have fought four wars over the last 65 years.

SSBNs are unnecessary and destabilising

A Chinese Type 094 (Jin-class) SSBN. (Wikipedia.) Regarding the Chinese and Indian ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programs and their impact on international security, my arguments are: (1) they are not necessary; (2) noisy SSBNs are destabilising and should not be deployed; and (3) China's SSBNs are still far from being operational.

Why sea-based nuclear weapons won't stabilise the Indo-Pacific

China, India and possibly Pakistan intend to deploy nuclear weapons at sea. Ultimately, such deployments may well have a stabilising effect — that is, they may reduce the risk of full-scale war and nuclear use. Sea-based nuclear weapons might, for instance, fit well with 'no-first-use' doctrines. They might also encourage reduced investment in more destabilising forces such as weapons fired from fixed sites, which are vulnerable and thus suited to a 'first strike'.
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