The Pentagon released a report on China’s nuclear arsenal on Tuesday, warning that the country is on course to nearly quadruple the number of weapons by 2035, rapidly narrowing the gap with the United States.
The Pentagon warned last year that China was growing its nuclear arsenal faster than expected, foreshadowing a large and increasing military buildup to rival or overtake US global domination by mid-century.
The Pentagon predicted last year that China may have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, with the number rising to 700 in the following six years.
According to the new estimate, China could have as many as 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, up from its present stockpile of around 400.
In comparison, the United States maintains 3,750 operational nuclear warheads.
The Pentagon’s last nuclear posture review noted that Beijing’s increasing arsenal makes it difficult for the US to deter Russia and China.
Bonny Lin, head of the China Power project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that China’s buildup also sows doubt about Beijing’s motivations.
“The actual increase in capability will start to influence the way Chinese experts think of using nuclear weapons,” for example, whether Beijing’s “no-first-mover” policy will change, Lin asked.
“That is the uncertainty. We cannot assume that if they have more capabilities, their policy will remain the same.”
A senior defense official who briefed reporters ahead of the study’s release on condition of anonymity said that the report only covers China’s efforts in 2021 and does not assess how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have affected China’s militarization policy or relationship with Russia.
China has not supplied Russia with weapons for the ongoing battle. Still, according to the official, the United States is keeping a careful eye on China’s amplification of Russian disinformation and sustained backing for joint military drills with Russia.
John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, said China is watching the international response to Russia’s threat to nuclear weapons use in Ukraine.
Erath warned that China might threaten Taiwan or other nearby countries with nuclear weapons if Russia succeeds.
China is currently undergoing its largest protests in decades, with demonstrators calling for an end to the country’s “zero-Covid” policy.
Congress mandates an annual Pentagon report.
It launched two weeks after President Joe Biden met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the G 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, their first encounter since Biden assumed office.
During his nearly three-hour session, President Biden strongly denounced China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive policies” against Taiwan while simultaneously stating that the United States would not like to conflict with the communist superpower.
As the Chinese Defense Ministry reported, Wei Fenghe made it clear to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Cambodia last week that Taiwan is a “red line” for China.
“Taiwan is a Chinese territory. Taiwan and the resolution of the Taiwan issue are China’s concerns, and no outside force has the authority to intervene. “According to the ministry statement, Wei stated.
Beijing has threatened to annex Taiwan if necessary. Xi has given his military until 2027 to create the military capabilities to reclaim the democratically self-ruled island the Communist Party claims.
“If met, this 2027 target could give the [People’s Liberation Army] the ability to be a more credible military tool for the Chinese Communist Party to wield in its quest for the unification of Taiwan,” the Pentagon noted in its statement(2022 report).
The US has pledged billions of dollars worth of military equipment to strengthen Taiwan’s defenses and assist it in fending off any future invasion.
When asked about the possibility of an invasion of Taiwan, the senior defense official stated that the Department of Defense does not perceive this as a danger but rather as establishing a new normal of heightened intimidation.
China’s military has increased the frequency and intensity of its tests of Taiwan’s airspace and shoreline in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan.
China has also made worrying headway in “blinding and deafening the opponent” by downing communications and early-warning satellites, using artificial intelligence, and increasing its war operations. Cyber, per report.
The Pentagon’s newly revealed national defense policy stated that China is the biggest danger to US security and will shape future military training and equipment.