(NationalSentinel) The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) said that China has managed to double the number of deployed nuclear warheads and is expected to double that number again over the course of the next decade, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Vice Admiral David Kriete, speaking at a conference in Omaha, Neb., this week, said that China is also moving to expand its nuclear and military capabilities regionally first, but globally in the coming years.
“China is and has been for the last couple of decades on a very clear trajectory where they’re increasing the numbers of nuclear weapons that they field, they’re increasing the number of and diversity of the delivery systems,” Kriete said during a press briefing.
“They are working on fielding a triad—ballistic missile submarines, strategic bombers, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
The U.S. and Russia have had a functional nuclear triad for decades. It is seen as the ultimate capability in ensuring that at least some form of nuclear response survives a first strike by an enemy.
Having an offensive undersea nuclear capability is key to the triad, as submarines are difficult to detect and track and, given the range of sub-launched ICBMs, can remain relatively close to an enemy’s shoreline when launching.
Besides improving delivery systems, China is working on a nuclear production capability that will “allow them to continue on this trend or actually increase it in the future should they so choose,” the three-star admiral said, adding that Beijing’s military is also fielding regional missile systems that don’t have intercontinental range.
“When it comes to the no-first-use policy, I have read about this no-first-use policy,” he said. “Beyond that statement, they don’t talk much about it, so I’m not exactly sure what it is.”
Kriete said the nuclear buildup should be viewed within the context of China’s regional and global expansion.
“China’s leadership has made it clear in recent years that they have goals of becoming a regional power and exerting—economic and military—over the western Pacific at some point in the future,” he added. “And then obtaining some level of global influence at some point after that.”
Analysts believe that China has around 200 nuclear warheads, but they admit that, due to secrecy, the actual number could be much higher — as high as 1,500.
The U.S. and Russia possess comparable numbers of nuclear warheads, and combined, the two nations possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads.
As of 2017, the U.S. has an inventory of 6,800 nuclear warheads and of these, 2,800 are retired and awaiting dismantlement while the remaining 4,018 are part of the U.S. stockpile.
Speaking of Chinese subs, we reported in December that Beijing’s navy was testing a new “game-changing” nuclear-capable sub-launched missile that can strike anywhere in the U.S.:
The Chinese navy has successfully tested a new submarine-launched nuclear-capable ballistic missile that can reach all of the United States, a capability that it did not previously have, according to reports.
The missile, dubbed the Julong-3 (JL-3), is set to be deployed with China’s next generation of ballistic missile submarines which are currently under development but are soon to be deployed.
- By Jon Dougherty
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