The estimate, based on China’s rapid modernization of nuclear strike options and its construction of missile silos, marks a dramatic increase from the projection in last year’s China Military Power report, which estimated that China would double its stock of 200 warheads in a decade.
The report comes amid heightened tensions over the Taiwan issue and was released hours after the top US general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, issued a stern warning about military progress from China, saying it was “one of the biggest shifts in global geostrategic power the world has witnessed.” “
A senior defense official briefing reporters on the report took a similar position.
“The nuclear expansion that the [People’s Republic of China] This business is certainly of great concern to us, ”said the official. “It’s one thing to watch what they’re doing, but they haven’t really explained why they’re doing it.
“They are moving in a direction that is significantly beyond what they were previously in terms of numbers and capabilities,” the official said. Although China always maintains a no-use-first policy when it comes to nuclear weapons, the official said China has suggested “that there are circumstances under which this would not apply.”
China has also focused on a “lean and efficient nuclear force”, but their current build-up is greater than the United States had anticipated “and far beyond what they have historically been.” Investing in its nuclear force has enabled China to establish an “emerging” nuclear triad of air-launched ballistic missiles, as well as surface and sea-launched missiles, similar to the United States’ own triad.
The United States currently has 3,750 nuclear warheads in stock, according to the latest State Department data, eclipsing the size of China’s nuclear stockpile.
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) this week released a report on the rapid construction of three suspected silo fields in western China. The silo fields are still years away from becoming operational, wrote FAS report authors Matt Korda and Hans M. Kristensen, but they could eventually be able to launch long-range nuclear missiles.
Modernization Offers “A Range Of Different Options” To Taiwan
The Pentagon report, officially titled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021, also focuses on Beijing’s goals for the future development and modernization of its armed forces. Importantly, if China meets its interim modernization target for 2027, it could offer Beijing “a range of different options” regarding Taiwan, from a blockade of the island to a potential amphibious invasion from Taiwan itself or from one of the smaller outer islands.
At the same time, China is also aiming to deter foreign intervention in what Beijing sees as a domestic policy issue.
“Obviously, they are looking to the United States or other parties that they think could intervene on behalf of Taiwan,” the official said. Beyond 2027, China seeks to complete the modernization of its military by 2035 and become a world-class army by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This would allow him to “move US security alliances and partnerships to the Indo-Pacific region,” according to the report.
The report, which summarizes Chinese military developments in 2020, does not describe China’s recent hypersonic missile test over the summer. At the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday, Milley said hypersonic technology is just one area where China is making significant progress.
Asked about the recent test of a hypersonic weapon, Milley said it was only part of the larger picture of China’s rapidly advancing military capability, which he called “a fundamental change. In the war which is already reshaping elements of the international order.
The report notes that China last year deployed the DF-17, a medium-range ballistic missile capable of launching a hypersonic glide vehicle.
China has denied testing hypersonic weapons.
Last week, the second-highest-ranking US general said the rate at which the Chinese military was developing its capabilities was “astounding” while US development suffered from a “brutal” bureaucracy. The outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, told reporters at a Defense Writers Group roundtable that “the pace at which they are moving and the trajectory on which they find themselves will exceed Russia and the United States if we don’t. do something to change it. It will happen. So I think we need to do something.
The Pentagon has repeatedly called China a “pace challenge” for the United States, but President Joe Biden stressed on Tuesday that competition does not make conflict inevitable.
At the COP26 climate summit’s closing press conference, Biden said, “There is no reason there is a conflict. Of his next virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden said, “I have also indicated to him, so I have no hesitation in saying this publicly, that we expect him to abide by the rules of the route ”.
This year’s report adds a new section on China’s chemical and biological research, raising concerns about possible dual-use applications of the country’s biological activities. But he doesn’t delve into the origins or spread of the coronavirus. Instead, he notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a driving force in China’s foreign policy, as it has sought to deflect all blame for the outbreak while using foreign aid to bolster it. regional influence.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.