Amid mounting tensions between the US and China over disputed areas in the South China Sea, Beijing is set to send nuclear submarines to patrol the Pacific Ocean this year for the first time in history.

The news first emerged after a report by The Guardian that Beijing is planning its first nuclear deterrence patrol. The newspaper quoted unnamed Chinese military officials, who said such patrols are the only tool to secure China from US’ weapons systems.

While Chinese authorities haven’t confirmed or declined the news, a piece in the state-run People’s Daily added evidence to the allegations.The report suggests that nuclear deterrence patrolling is essential to showcase China’s nuclear capabilities to the Americans. In the past, as reported, Washington politicians demonstrated ignorance toward Beijing’s nuclear potential. For instance, in the 2012 US presidential campaign, candidate Herman Cain stated that he was unaware China was a nuclear power.

Meanwhile, Beijing sticks to an “effective nuclear deterrence” strategy that relies on a smaller number of warheads compared to that of other nuclear powers.

“As Sino-US tensions build, it is necessary for China to strengthen its capability for nuclear retaliation. It will help with balance in the Asia-Pacific region and enhance the US willingness to seek peace with China.”

According to the People’s Daily, China has been successful in developing nuclear technologies with launches of missiles from both under water and from land.  The reports adds that the “survival capability of China’s nuclear force” has been improved.“History shows that balanced power better contributes to peace. China should increase its number of nuclear weapons, and enhance their survival power and capability to hit the targets. It is the most important foundation of China’s national security,” reported the Daily.

Earlier, the Pentagon projected that “China will probably conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2016.” However, the exact start date is yet to be announced.

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