According to a Pentagon report issued Thursday, China is growing its nuclear arsenal faster than prior US forecasts.
According to the Department of Defense’s annual China Military Power Report, China owned “more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023 — on track to exceed previous expectations.”
“We’re not trying to suggest a very large departure from where they looked to be headed… but we are suggesting that they’re on track to exceed those previous projections,” a senior defense official told journalists.
Nonetheless, the increase “raises a lot of concerns for us,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the research, Beijing is anticipated to have more than 1,000 functioning nuclear bombs by 2030.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States now has approximately 3,700 nuclear weapons, trailing Russia’s approximately 4,500. China has 410 warheads.
The report also described a developing and upgrading Chinese military, in accordance with President Xi Jinping’s more assertive posture on the world arena.
Earlier this week, the US accused China of staging a “coordinated” campaign of dangerous and provocative air force operations against US military jets in international airspace, saying that such actions could lead to an unintentional clash between the two nations.
According to the Pentagon, aggressive Chinese aircraft tactics have threatened US planes flying over the East and South China Sea regions, with more than 180 such incidents recorded since fall 2021 — “more in the last two years than in the decade before that,” Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told reporters Tuesday.
Ratner claimed that Beijing was on a deliberate effort “to perform these risky behaviors in order to coerce a change in lawful US operational activity.”
Relations between the United States and China are at an all-time low, with tensions ranging from trade to human rights to Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Speaking about the nuclear report, a Defense Department official asked China “to be more transparent on their nuclear buildup,” despite the fact that Beijing does not engage with Washington about its arsenal.
According to the source, China is trying to expand its capacity to launch warheads via land, air, and submarine, and has “probably completed” the construction of 300 intercontinental ballistic missile launch stations.
While the US claims that China is now its major geopolitical opponent, China has resisted what it deems a US campaign of containment and encirclement in the Pacific and elsewhere.
Despite the historic tensions, the two countries have resumed dialogue with a series of visits by senior US officials to Beijing in recent months. However, Ratner said on Tuesday that Beijing continues to decline US invitations “to open lines of military-to-military communication at the senior-most levels.”