48 Report of the Joint Intelligence Committee

Canberra, June 1960


JIC (AUST) (60) 28: Nuclear Weapons and Guided Missiles in Communist China up to the End of 1965

[matter omitted]


The Chinese Requirement

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  1. We believe that China intends to acquire a full range of nuclear weapons and guided missiles as soon as practicable.

    Chinese Production Capacity

  2. Nuclear Weapons
    1. China has indigenous sources of uranium and is capable of producing uranium metal for use as fuel in a nuclear reactor. There is, however, no evidence to date of any activity which could be directly related to nuclear weapon trial or development and there are no known facilities for substantial production of the necessary fissile material.
    2. China has the scientific and technical ability, unaided, to produce a very limited number of nuclear weapons and, assuming that a major effort is made, a nuclear weapon programme could be in operation by 1965.

[matter omitted]

Although this generally is true, it is unlikely that, in the particular scientific disciplines affecting nuclear and guided missile research, there will be a sufficiency of adequately trained scientists for these subjects, which currently receive high priority. In short, withdrawal or denial of Soviet scientific and technical personnel will not prevent Chinese nuclear-weapon and guided missile-development programmes, although it may delay or limit them.

Nuclear Weapons

  1. Nuclear Research. China has an active and expanding nuclear research programme which has high priority, is well staffed and adequately equipped. The 12-Year Plan for the development of certain 'vital departments' of science to the 'world's most advanced levels', announced in January 1956, gave high priority to the development of 'peaceful uses of atomic energy'.1 These priorities were reaffirmed during a review of the Plan in 1959.

    [matter omitted]

  2. Production of Fissionable Material. Firm evidence of Chinese uranium mining activity from as early as 1954 at various localities in China particularly in Sinkiang.2

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  3. Sino-Soviet Co-operation. The USSR has provided substantial aid to the Chinese nuclear programme in terms of technical advice, equipment and training. Soviet advice and assistance have been identified at all stages of the Chinese uranium mining and extraction programme; the Peking research reactor and cyclotron-the heart of the Chinese nuclear research programme-were provided by the USSR, and there is evidence of considerable Soviet assistance in the planning of the Chinese programme. An important example of this co-operation was the establishment of the Joint Nuclear Research Institute at Dubna (near Moscow) in 1956.3

[matter omitted]

In Limited War in Asia

  1. In the event of limited war in Asia during the next five years the USSR would continue to supply conventional arms including some non-nuclear tactical missiles. However, the USSR would be most unlikely to provide nuclear weapons to China in limited war unless targets in China had been subjected to Western nuclear attack. In making such a decision the USSR would have to consider the risk of global war.

[NAA: A1209, 1961/845]