The number of Chinese nuclear warheads could rise to 700 within six years, the report said, and may peak at 1,000 by 2030. The report did not say how many weapons China has today, but a year ago the Pentagon said the number was in the “low 200s “and would probably be doubled by the end of this decade.
The United States, by comparison, has 3,750 nuclear weapons and has no plans to increase them. As recently as 2003, the United States totaled about 10,000. The Biden administration is conducting a comprehensive review of its nuclear policy and has not said how it may be affected by its concerns in China.
The report does not propose open conflict with China, but it does fit a new American narrative of a People’s Liberation Army, which China calls its military, which intends to challenge the United States in all areas of warfare – air, land, sea, space and cyberspace . Against this background, US defense officials have said they are increasingly wary of China’s intentions regarding Taiwan’s status.
“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen (China’s) ability to ‘fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’ – a likely euphemism for the United States,” the report said, adding that it enables China to force Taiwan, the autonomous island that China claims to be its territory.
The report also claimed that China has begun construction of at least three new missile fields that “cumulatively contain hundreds” of underground silos from which ICBMs could be fired.
The report today (AEST) is the latest reminder to Congress, already skeptical of Beijing’s military ambitions, that the Pentagon’s frequent promises to focus more intensively on fighting China have only gradually moved beyond the speech phase.
The Biden administration is expected to take a new step by following up on its announcement in September of plans to increase the US military presence in Australia, in addition to a controversial decision to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
China’s military modernization is progressing on a broad front, but its nuclear progress is particularly noteworthy.
The Chinese may have already established what is known as a nuclear triad – the combination of land, sea and air missiles that the United States and Russia have had for decades – the report said. To its existing land and sea-based nuclear forces, China is adding an air-fired ballistic missile.
The Pentagon report said China is pursuing a network of overseas bases and logistics hubs that could “disrupt” U.S. military operations and could support Chinese military operations against the United States. President Xi Jinping has said that China plans to become a global military power by 2049.
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The Pentagon’s comprehensive assessment of China’s military strategy and force development is the latest in an annual series of reports to Congress.