The Pentagon: China is Expanding its Nuclear Arsenal Unexpectedly Quickly

World | October 20, 2023, Friday // 10:59|  views

The Dongfeng 5 is a second-generation two stage Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile

China has more than 500 nuclear warheads in its arsenal and is likely to have more than 1,000 warheads by 2030, the Pentagon said in its annual report on Beijing's military.

The Asian giant's nuclear arsenal remains smaller than Russia's and America's: Washington has a stockpile of about 3,700 nuclear warheads. Russia has about 1,550 nuclear weapons and, according to the Federation of American Scientists, has a stockpile of 4,489 nuclear warheads.

However, the Asian giant's nuclear arsenal is expanding much faster than previously predicted. In its report, the Pentagon says that with more than 500 warheads, China exceeds expectations; by 2021, the estimate was for 400.

Last year's report, which stepped on the last number, said China was expected to have almost quadrupled its headcount - 1,500 - by 2035, to 1,000 by 2030. In 2021, there was a sharp increase in the forecast.

"We see that the PRC (People's Republic of China) continues to modernize, diversify and expand its nuclear forces quite rapidly," a senior US official told reporters during a briefing on the report, quoted by Reuters. According to him, China's nuclear arsenal today "really far exceeds that of a decade ago" in scale and sophistication.

The report comes amid ongoing tensions between the world's two leading economies, which the Pentagon hopes to ease by attending China's largest annual security forum in late October and meeting with officials. The presidents of the two countries are also expected to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco.

The report added that China's navy has more than 370 ships and submarines, up from 340 last year. And now China has the largest navy in the world.

Concern was also expressed once again about the risk of pressure against Taiwan, which China continues to view as a breakaway province. In addition, the Pentagon believes, China has "almost certainly" learned lessons from the war in Ukraine about what a conflict might look like for Taiwan.

Another concern is that China may be trying to acquire a new intercontinental ballistic missile system that could pose a threat from conventional strikes on the United States, Hawaii and Alaska.

The US continues to define China as the leading challenge to its security even after the war in Ukraine and after the start of the one between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to have the country have a "world-class" military by 2049. In 2023, its official defense spending was 7.2% - more than its economic growth - even just according to official figures.

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Tags: nuclear, China, US


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