China has built an "Underground Steel Great Wall" below the mountains to hide its nuclear weapons from the potential attacks, said a top Chinese defence scientist who recently received the country's highest defence award from President Xi Jinping.
Qian Qihu, 82, said China's "underground steel Great Wall" could "guarantee the security of the country's strategic arsenal" against potential attacks, including those from future hypersonic weapons, state-run Global Times reported on Sunday.
Qian, an academician of both the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the daily that the "Underground Steel Great Wall" is a series of defence facilities located deep under mountains.
While the mountain rock is thick enough to resist enemy attacks, entrances and exits of these facilities are often vulnerable and Qian's work was to provide extra protection for these parts, the daily said. China's nuclear strategy follows the principle of "no first use" and requires the country to have the capability of withstanding a nuclear attack before it responds with its strategic weapons, the daily said.
Qian, who received the 2018 State Preeminent Science and Technology Award during a conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday, said the "Underground Steel Great Wall," is the "country's last national defence line."
If other lines of defence including the strategic missile interception system, anti-missile system and air defence system failed to function against hypersonic missiles and recently developed bunker-busters, his work can still thwart such attacks, he said.
"The development of the shield must closely follow the development of spears. Our defence engineering has evolved in a timely manner as attack weapons pose new challenges," Qian said. He said the hypersonic weapons that move 10 times as fast as the speed of sound is capable of changing trajectory mid-flight and penetrate any anti-missile installations.
"National defence challenges do not only emerge from the development of advanced attack weapons but are also a result of an unpredictable international environment," Qian said. He cited the recent US stance whereby the Donald Trump administration is mulling lowering the threshold for nuclear weapons deployment.
Asked how he would spend the eight-million-yuan cash award, Qian said that part would go to research on national defence, and the rest used for social welfare projects such as fighting poverty and supporting poor students.
"I have never had a thought of earning any prize money for my research, nor would I think it came too late. I am only grateful that national recognition offers a great opportunity to raise the public's national defence awareness, " he said.
Qian's work guaranteed the safety of the country's strategic weapons, launch and storage facilities as well as commanders' safety during extreme times, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator told the daily.
(With inputs from agencies.)