A group of students at the Georgetown University, working under Professor Phillip Karber, a former Pentagon strategist, have raised concerns after their study concluded China has a stockpile of nuclear weapons far larger than anybody ever suspected.
According to the study report, the Chinese have an extensive network of tunnels which they call their "Underground Great Wall of China." The network of tunnels, running into thousands of miles, are used to hide China's ever growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post reports that although existence of the underground tunnels was known in the West, there was very little information about them. The U.S. students and their professor relied primarily on incidental Chinese sources. They worked on evidence collected from hundreds of translated Chinese documents, military journals, local news reports, military forums, syllabuses of Chinese military academies, online photos posted by private Chinese citizens, satellite imagery and online other data.
Daily Mail reports the study was prompted by observations made after a major earthquake in Sichuan province, in 2008, when Kraber was committee member of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a Pentagon agency. The committee chairman's curiosity was aroused when he noticed Chinese news stories about thousands of radiation technicians drafted to the region after the earthquake. Satellite images of collapsed hills suggested that the region had extensive underground tunnels. The chairman called on Kraber and asked him to investigate what was going on in Sichuan. Kraber decided to recruit analysts from among Georgetown students.
The students, painstakingly compiled evidence from diverse sources about the "Underground Great Wall of China," and soon they had some insight into how Chinese missiles were transported, including the use of disguised passenger rail cars to move long range missiles. The group was also lucky to obtain a 400-page manual produced by the Second Artillery usually available only to military personnel.
While the work progressed, China, in December 2009, admitted publicly, for the first time, that the Second Artillery had built more than 3,000 miles of tunnels. The report by state-run CCTV said the underground military facilities included deep bases that could withstand nuclear attacks. The information was helpful to the team for it confirmed for the first time that it was on the right track.
Estimates of China's nuclear warheads fall between 80 to 400. But the students and their professor claim that the "Underground Wall of China" hides a more massive and sophisticated nuclear arsenal than the U.S. or any other government suspects. According to Karber, judging from the scale of China's underground network of tunnels, China's nuclear warheads could be as many as 3,000.
The students study group compiled a 363-page report which has not yet been published. Copies, however, have been read by top U.S. government officials in the Pentagon, and a Congressional hearing and meetings have been held over the Revelations of the report.
The report, according to The Washington Post, is the most comprehensive body of information on the "Underground Great Wall of China." The Second Artillery Corp, which is responsible for digging and maintaining the tunnels, is also the arm of the People's Liberation Army responsible for deploying China's ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.
Some experts have, however, raised questions on the research method of Professor karber and his students. Some critics say the Internet-based research, which went as far as draw evidence from a fictionalized TV docudrama about Chinese Artillery soldiers, is unorthodox and its conclusions questionable.
The fear of China's growing military power and its increasing technological sophistication is already a contagion in the West. Some non-proliferation activists are already worrying that the new report by Professor Phillip Karber and his students may lead to the derailment of nuclear non-proliferation treaties and disarmament plans.
The biggest threat is that it may ignite an East-West nuclear arms race.