Washington (AFP) - China for the first time will likely have subs equipped with long-range nuclear missiles later this year, part of an increasingly potent submarine fleet, a top US officer said Tuesday,
The head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said the latest class of Chinese subs would be armed with a new ballistic missile with an estimated range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,500 kilometers).
"This will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, probably before the end of 2014," Locklear told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Locklear was referring to the production of China's JIN-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and the new JL-2 missile on board the vessel.
"China’s advance in submarine capabilities is significant. They possess a large and increasingly capable submarine force," the admiral said.
In October, Chinese state media for the first time showed images of the country's nuclear-powered submarines, touting it as a "credible second-strike nuclear capability."
Locklear said China's submarine modernization effort was impressive.