Chinese state media on Thursday denounced a new Pentagon report on China’s growing nuclear arsenal as “speculative,” without actually denying anything in the report.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) report on the “accelerating pace” of China’s nuclear weapons program was published on Wednesday.
The report said China is amassing nuclear warheads at a much faster pace than DoD anticipated in its 2020 analysis. Last year, the Pentagon believed China had about 200 warheads and planned to double its stockpile over the long term, but this year the Pentagon estimated China is on track to have “up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027” and at least a thousand by 2030.
A thousand warheads would still be much smaller than the American and Russian nuclear inventories, which include anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 warheads according to various reports, but would still give China devastating nuclear strike capabilities.
DoD analysts said China is “building hundreds of new ICBM silos” to hold missiles capable of delivering its nuclear warheads and is working hard on improving its long-range missile technology, including research into next-generation hypersonic delivery vehicles.
The report noted China is also working on improving the other two legs of its nuclear “triad,” its air- and sea-launched nuclear missile capabilities. These nuclear upgrades appear to be part of a comprehensive strategy by China to improve its ability to project military power and win long-distance conflicts with conventional forces.
“We’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed. If we, the United States military, don’t do a fundamental change to ourselves in the coming 10 to 15 to 20 years, then we’re going to be on the wrong side of a conflict,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said at a defense forum on Wednesday.
A senior U.S. defense official told the Washington Post on Thursday the Chinese “appear to have decided to go in kind of a different direction in terms of expanding their nuclear force in terms of size.”
“Whereas before I would have said that they were gradually increasing the size … now they seem to be trying to take that up to a different level,” the official said.
China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday dismissed the Pentagon report as mere speculation and insisted China’s nuclear arsenal is purely defensive in nature.
“China is the only major nuclear power that has made the ‘no first use’ pledge. It will not deter non-nuclear countries and regions with nuclear weapons. It also emphasizes that it always maintains its nuclear force at the minimum level required for national security,” the Global Times insisted. “This means China will never engage in a nuclear arms race with the US, or seek to build a nuclear arsenal of equivalent scale as the U.S.”
The Chinese paper claimed the Pentagon report was just an excuse for the U.S. to justify “increasing military pressure on China” and taking provocative steps such as “encouraging the Taiwan authorities to take risky and hostile policies against the Chinese mainland.”
“Washington has no accurate information about China’s nuclear force building at all, nor does it have a method to substantially pressure China over nuclear weapons,” the Global Times insisted, dismissing the Pentagon report and other U.S. concerns about China’s military buildup as “propaganda” and “smoke bombs.”
“Whatever Washington says about China’s nuclear arsenal, we can just snub them. We should dynamically maintain the nuclear power needed for ensuring our national security and ensuring the credibility of our nuclear deterrence to provide solid support for national security,” the Global Times concluded.