China plans to double its stockpile of nuclear warheads: Pentagon

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China is likely planning to double its stockpile of nuclear warheads during this decade, including those designed for ballistic missiles that can reach the United States, the Pentagon said in a report on Tuesday.

Even so, China’s nuclear force would be eclipsed by that of the United States, which has about 3,800 warheads ready for action and more in reserve, according to the report. China currently has nuclear warheads in the low-200s, but is on the verge of launching nuclear strikes by air, land and sea. This is the first time the US military has disclosed the number of China’s nuclear warheads.

The Trump administration urged China to join a nuclear weapons treaty with the United States and Russia to limit the expansion of nuclear weapons between the three countries, but China refused. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials said their arsenal was not large enough to be included within the negotiated limits. Chinese officials have said that pressuring China to join a trilateral agreement should not be used as an excuse to withdraw from START, the nuclear deal between the United States and Russia which will expire in February. It could be renewed for up to five years if Moscow and Washington agree.

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In July, a senior Chinese diplomat said Beijing “would be happy to” join such a deal if the United States was willing to downsize its arsenal to the size of China’s.

The Pentagon said the growth projection was based on factors such as Beijing having enough material to double its stock without further production of fissile material.

The report states that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to create an international “favorable” environment for national “rejuvenation”. They decided that their armed forces should take a more active role in achieving their foreign policy goals.

The expansion of China’s nuclear forces is part of a larger effort to assert more power on the world stage, with the goal of matching or surpassing the United States as a global superpower by 2049.

Party leaders also view a divided China as a weak China and will work for “full reunification,” the reintegration of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao – on Beijing terms – by the end of 2049.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned of China’s plans three days before the report was posted on Twitter.

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“As Communist China prepares to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile, modernizing our nuclear force and maintaining readiness are essential for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said. -he writes.

The Trump administration has used such predictions to justify spending hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize America’s nuclear arsenal.

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The plan, started under the Obama administration, is to replace all major elements of nuclear power – submarines, long-range bombers and land missiles – over the next 30 years, at a projected cost of over $ 1 trillion. of dollars. This includes the cost of maintaining and operating the force and updating warheads as well as command and control systems. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden did not say whether he would continue with the plan if he won in November.

The Pentagon has also suggested that China may adopt a higher level of nuclear combat readiness. As of now, it keeps its nuclear warheads stored separately from its missiles and launchers and would need a warning to prepare them for war. The report said evidence uncovered last year indicates that China wishes to keep some of its force in a state of alert known as “launch on alert”. Thus, its siled ICBMs would be armed in peacetime and ready to launch on short notice. , this is how the US ICBM force works.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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