China has more than 500 nuclear bombs in its arsenal and is developing new Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that will significantly improve its nuclear-capable missile forces, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
In its latest report on China sent to the US Congress, the Pentagon said that over the next decade, China will continue to rapidly modernise, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces.
The PRC (People’s Republic of China) is developing new ICBMs that will significantly improve its nuclear-capable missile forces and will require increased nuclear warhead production, partially due to the introduction of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) capabilities, the Pentagon said in the report.
China may be exploring the development of conventionally-armed intercontinental-range missile systems, the report said.
If developed and fielded, such capabilities would allow China to threaten conventional strikes against targets in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska.
Conventionally armed ICBMs would present significant risks to strategic stability, the report said.
Compared to its nuclear modernisation efforts a decade ago, current efforts dwarf previous attempts in both scale and complexity, the report said.
China is expanding the number of its land, sea and air-based nuclear delivery platforms while investing in and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support further expansion of its nuclear forces.
In 2022, Beijing continued its rapid nuclear expansion, and the US estimates China’s stockpile had more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023.
The US Department of Defense estimates that China will have over 1,000 operational nuclear warheads by 2030, much of which will be deployed at higher readiness levels and will continue growing its force to 2035 in line with its goal of ensuring China’s modernisation is basically complete that year, which serves as an important milestone on the road to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goal of a world-class military by 2049.
China probably will use its new fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons programme, despite publicly maintaining these technologies are intended for peaceful purposes, according to the report.
China has probably completed the construction of its three new solid-propellant silo fields in 2022, which consists of at least 300 new ICBM silos, and has loaded at least some ICBMs into these silos, the report said.
These silo fields are capable of fielding both DF-31 and DF-41 class ICBMs. This project and the expansion of China’s liquid-propellant silo force is meant to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear force by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture, the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon report can be read HERE (external link).
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