The Pentagon and Republican congressmen on Tuesday aired fresh concerns about China’s build-up of its nuclear forces after a new report saying Beijing was building 110 more missile silos.
An American Federation of Scientists (AFS) report on Monday said satellite images showed China was building a new field of silos near Hami in the eastern part of its Xinjiang region.
The report came weeks after another on the construction of about 120 missile silos in Yumen, a desert area about 380km (240 miles) to the southeast.
“This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it,” the US Strategic Command said in tweet linked to a New York Times article on the AFS report.
The state department in early July called China’s nuclear buildup concerning and said it appeared Beijing was deviating from decades of nuclear strategy based around minimal deterrence. It called on China to engage with it “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races.”
Republican congressman Mike Turner, ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said China’s nuclear build-up was “unprecedented” and made clear it was “deploying nuclear weapons to threaten the United States and our allies.”
He said China’s refusal to negotiate arms control “should be a cause for concern and condemned by all responsible nations.”
Another Republican, Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Chinese build-up showed the need to rapidly modernize the US nuclear deterrent.
A 2020 Pentagon report estimated China’s nuclear warhead stockpile in “the low 200s” and said it was projected to at least double in size as Beijing expands and modernizes its forces. Analysts say the United States has around 3,800 warheads, and according to a state department factsheet, 1,357 of those were deployed as of March 1st.
Washington has repeatedly called on China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty.
The report https://fas.org/blogs/security/2021/07/china-is-building-a-second-nuclear-missile-silo-fieldon the new silos comes as Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to hold arms control talks with Russia in Geneva on Wednesday.
Ms Sherman was in China earlier this week for talks at which Beijing accused Washington of creating an “imaginary enemy” to divert attention from domestic problems and suppress China.
Beijing says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia and it is ready to conduct bilateral dialogues on strategic security “on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
For decades, since its first successful nuclear test in the 1960s, China has maintained a “minimum deterrent”. which most outside experts judge at around 300 nuclear weapons. (The Chinese will not say, and the US government assessments are classified.) If accurate, that is less than a fifth of the number deployed by the United States and Russia, and in the nuclear world, China has always cast itself as occupying something of a moral high ground, avoiding expensive and dangerous arms races. But that appears to be changing under president Xi Jinping. At the same time that China is cracking down on dissent at home, asserting new control over Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan and making far more aggressive use of cyberweapons, it is also headed into new territory with nuclear weapons.
“The silo construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever,” Matt Korda and Hans M Kristensen wrote in a study of the new silo field.
For decades, they noted, China has operated about 20 silos for missiles called the DF-5. But the newly discovered field, combined with one hundreds of miles away in Yumen, in northeast China, that was discovered by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, will give the country roughly 230 new silos.–New York Times and Reuters