Pentagon: China’s nuclear arsenal growing much faster than expected

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Nov. 4 (UPI) — China has accelerated the pace of its nuclear weapons development and could have up to 1,000 deliverable warheads by 2030, far exceeding projections from just one year ago, according to a new Pentagon report.

The Department of Defense released its annual China Military Power Report on Wednesday, detailing the Chinese military’s rapid nuclear expansion as well as its increasingly sophisticated space, counterspace and cyberwarfare capabilities.

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Beijing may have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027, the report said, and “likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.”

Last year’s report estimated that China would double its stockpile of roughly 200 nuclear warheads over the next decade.

The United States and Russia still control most of the world’s nuclear arsenal. Moscow’s stockpile is estimated at 6,257 nuclear warheads, while Washington has 3,750 — a reduction of 88% from a 1967 high of more than 31,000.

The report said that China may already be able to launch its missiles from air, ground and sea — a so-called nuclear triad.

On Tuesday, the Federation of American Scientists published satellite analysis that detailed the construction of hundreds of missile silos in China’s deserts, calling their development evidence of an “unprecedented nuclear buildup.”

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In addition to its growing nuclear capability, Beijing has been upgrading its military strength across multiple fronts, from conventional forces to cybercapacity to advanced weapons systems, such as a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that was first revealed last month and seemed to catch American defense officials off guard.

Earlier on Wednesday, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that China’s military development is already disrupting the balance of power in the world.

“For me, the number one challenge, what [Defense] Secretary Austin has called the pacing threat, is China,” Milley said during a session at the Aspen Security Dialogue.

“We’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed,” Milley said.

America’s top military officer said that a dramatic rise in advanced technologies including robotics, AI and precision munitions are “leading to a fundamental change in the character of war.”

“If we, the United States military, don’t do a fundamental change to ourselves, in the coming 10 to 20 years, then we’re going to be on the wrong side of a conflict.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that the country will become a dominant global power and field a world-class military by 2049, the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

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The Pentagon report detailed China’s growing efforts to project power outside of its borders and comes amid a period of rising tensions with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province and has vowed to retake by force if necessary.

Beijing has significantly ratcheted up its military pressure on Taipei in recent months, sending aircraft into Taiwanese airspace hundreds of times in September and October. Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told lawmakers last month that the situation with China is the “most serious” he had seen in 40 years.

China’s military has set a 2027 milestone of modernizing its weapons and equipment into a networked system capable of “informatized” and “intelligentized” warfare, the Pentagon report said.

Meeting such goals “could provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency,” the report warned.

Milley told the Aspen forum Wednesday that he didn’t believe China would take military action against Taiwan within the next 24 months but said that Beijing was strengthening its ability to do so at a later date.

“The Chinese are clearly and unambiguously building a capability to provide those options to their national leadership if they so choose at some point in the future,” Milley said.

Milley added that the United States would be able to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion by China.

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“We absolutely have the capability,” Milley said. “There’s no question about that.”