China ‘rapidly’ expanding its nuclear arsenal – Pentagon

China has expanded its nuclear arsenal faster than the US predicted and now has 500 warheads, according to a new Pentagon report

China ‘rapidly’ expanding its nuclear arsenal – Pentagon

Beijing now has 500 nuclear warheads and will double that number by 2030, a new report claims

China’s nuclear arsenal is growing faster than the US previously predicted, according to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress on Thursday. The information comes as lawmakers in Washington insist that the US must be prepared for simultaneous wars with Russia and China.

In the latest China Military Power Report, military officials claimed that China possessed more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May, 100 more than it did a year beforehand. 

By 2030, the report continued, China will likely have over 1,000 operational warheads. While the past two China Military Power Reports have also pointed to 2030 as the year China passes the 1,000-nuke threshold, Pentagon planners previously thought it would take longer for the Asian superpower to reach 500.

“Over the next decade, the [People’s Republic of China] will continue to rapidly modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces,” the report stated. “Compared to the [People’s Liberation Army’s] nuclear modernization efforts a decade ago, current efforts dwarf previous attempts in both scale and complexity.”

Beyond the headline figure of 500 warheads, the precise details of China’s nuclear program are more vague. The Pentagon report notes that Beijing will “probably” use its latest fast-neutron reactors to produce the plutonium needed to expand its arsenal and “probably completed the construction of its three new solid-propellant silo fields in 2022.”

China has also fielded new silo-based and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the latter of which can reach the continental United States from Chinese waters, the report claimed. 

China’s nuclear capabilities still lag behind those of the US and Russia. The US has 5,244 nuclear warheads, while Russia has the world’s largest stockpile at 5,899, according to figures published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in June.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning responded to the report on Friday, “China is firmly committed to a defensive nuclear strategy and has always kept our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required by national security.”

“For any country, as long as they do not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against China, they have nothing to worry about being threatened by China’s nuclear weapons,” Mao added.

China and India are the only two nuclear powers to maintain ‘no first use’ policies, with both pledging only to use nuclear weapons if attacked by them.

In Washington, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission called last week for a massive expansion in the US’ nuclear arsenal and its nuclear triad (ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable submarines, and strategic bombers) to manage a potential war against both Russia and China. Although the commission did not outline how this hypothetical war would come about, it stated that “there may be ultimate coordination between [Russia and China] which gets us to this two-war construct.”