China intends to increase the number of its deliverable nuclear warheads to at least 1,000 by 2030, the US Defense Department's annual China Military Power report released on Wednesday (3 November) said, adding that the country may have 700 nuclear warheads by 2027.
"The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020," the report says.
The report, prepared by the Pentagon for the US Congress, says China is expanding its nuclear arsenal much quicker than anticipated.
“They appear to have decided to go in kind of a different direction in terms of expanding their nuclear force... before I would have said that they were gradually increasing the size… now they seem to be trying to take that up to a different level," a US defence official was quoted as saying.
In the same report last year, the Pentagon had stated that China’s nuclear warheads numbered “in the low-200s” and the stockpile of its nuclear weapons was likely to “at least double in size.”
Amid the breakneck military buildup, China may have already established a nascent nuclear triad, the Pentagon report adds.
"The PRC has possibly already established a nascent “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities," it says, adding, "The PRC has commenced building at least three solid-fueled ICBM silo fields, which will cumulatively contain hundreds of new ICBM silos."
China is building hundreds of new silos for its intercontinental ballistic missiles. These silos are being constructed to support the land-based component of China's nuclear triad.
In 2019, commercial imagery from a non-governmental organisation revealed that the PRC had constructed an ICBM silo at one of the PLARF’s Western training ranges that is smaller than China’s existing CSS-4 (DF-5) silos and was believed to be used to evaluate silo-basing for the DF-41 or smaller ICBMs like the DF-31," the report says.
"Since then, the PRC appears to be building several of these silos, suggesting the PRC has moved beyond concept evaluation and is preparing for large scale construction of this new silo-based ICBM," it says.
The ICBMs, equipped with nuclear warheads, will be stored in these silos to ensure their survivability in case of the first strike on China by another nuclear power like the US. China's plan, experts say, is to spread out its nuclear missiles in silos built in different parts of the country so that its adversaries do not know exactly where its nukes are at any given time. The aim is to ensure the survival of the weapons and delivery systems in numbers sufficient to beat the US' missile defences.
"The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast-breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities," the Pentagon report says.
China intends to improve the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces.
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