The United States has claimed that China has significantly increased the size of its nuclear arsenal in recent years and intends to continue the rapid modernization, diversification, and expansion of its nuclear forces.
The assessment came in an annual report submitted to the US Congress by the Pentagon.
“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.
According to the latest assessments, the communist country is believed to be holding 500 operational warheads and hopes to expand it to 1,000 by 2030.
Notably, Beijing maintains it abides by a “no-first” use policy.
In 2021, the US Department of Defense said China had 400 warheads.
China considering developing ICBMs
The Pentagon report added that China is exploring building conventionally-armed intercontinental-range missile systems.
If developed and fielded, such capabilities would allow China to threaten conventional strikes against targets in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska, it warned.
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.
Russian and American arsenal
Even after the expansion, the Chinese nuclear arsenal is still dwarfed by that of Russia and the US.
Russia boasts a nuclear arsenal of some 5,889 warheads, while the US has 5,244, according to the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Earlier this week, Russia announced a departure from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which could further fuel the nuclear race between the two superpowers.
India and Pakistan also expanding their nuclear stockpile
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says India and Pakistan are also expanding their nuclear arsenal.
“While Pakistan remains the main focus of India’s nuclear deterrent, India appears to be placing emphasis on longer range weapons, including those capable of reaching targets across China,” It said in a report released earlier this year.
As of January 2023, India had 164 nuclear warheads while Pakistan had 170.