According to US intelligence, China is expanding its nuclear capabilities much faster than predicted only a year ago, and by 2030 may increase the presence of nuclear warheads in its arsenal to one thousand units.
This is stated in the annual report of the Pentagon on the assessment of China’s military capabilities, released on Wednesday.
China’s accelerated nuclear expansion could allow it to have up to 700 nuclear warheads by 2027. The report said that China is likely to aim to get at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, which exceeds the Pentagon’s previous 2020 forecast in terms of pace and volume.
Chinese nuclear arsenal to surpass Russian arsenal
General Thomas Bassier, deputy commander of the US Strategic Command, had previously said that China’s claims that it wants to maintain minimum forces as a means of nuclear deterrence are not true. The moment will come when the threats from China will exceed the number of threats from Russia. This will happen in a few years. This estimate will be made by the Pentagon not only on the basis of how many nuclear warheads Beijing has; their operational deployment will also be taken into account.
The US has a dialogue with Russia on how to reduce the risk of misinterpretations and mistakes, and there is no such dialogue with China. The General pointed out to the satellite images showing that China is likely building hundreds of new silos for nuclear missiles.
In 2020, the Pentagon reported to Congress that China had about 200 nuclear warheads deployed but indicated that the number would at least double. But Bassier argues that China conducted more ballistic missile capability tests last year than the rest of the world.
In response, China has claimed that its arsenal is dwarf compared to the United States and Russia. China agrees to dialogue, but only if Washington reduces its reserves to the level of China.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper published in Beijing by the Communist Party, has refuted the US Generals claim. Bassier wants to solve two sinister problems, Hu writes. First, Bassier wants to sow the seeds of discord between Russia and China, arousing fears in Russia. China has fewer nuclear warheads than Russia. Russia has more nuclear warheads than the United States. It is inconceivable that China’s nuclear arsenal will exceed Russia’s in the foreseeable future. Second, the General wants to drag China into a dialogue mechanism that will limit the development of its nuclear arsenal. And this will help maintain a huge gap in nuclear power between China and the United States, wrote the Chinese publicist.
Over the course of this decade, China will be inferior to Russia in terms of the number of warheads. But in the long term, China has more resources in order to increase its number. China may find itself in a different league compared to Britain and France and make a leap to several hundred or a thousand warheads. Not only does the number of warheads matter, but also how they are operated, as well as the range. For example, China has classes of weapons that Russia does not have. These are medium-range ballistic missiles.
Another important point is that previously the Chinese did not have the same understanding of combat duty as they did in Russia. Chinese kept their warheads undocked from missiles. This will change now. It is extremely important for the Chinese to quickly acquire the same experience that the Russians and the Americans have.
As for the prospect of China joining the negotiations on nuclear weapons, its position remains the same. Beijing will never agree to be assigned a lower threshold for nuclear weapons than Russia, the United States or any other country.
The India Factor
Chinese have to also contend with the Indian threat in future. India has steadily built up its nuclear and delivery options throughout the decade.
India has been developing medium and long-range missiles since the 1990s, especially since the border dispute with China has not been settled. And in 2020, there was a clash, resulting in the deaths of Indian and Chinese soldiers. Talks between the commanders of the two countries have stalled, and Delhi fears that the new PRC border law will exacerbate the conflict.
The impetus for improving its weapons systems by India was the creation of a powerful missile arsenal by China. Although China has not officially abandoned the concept of “minimum deterrence,” but its nuclear weapons have far exceeded this characteristic, and they cannot be called minimal.
The confrontation between Indian and Chinese armed forces in the Himalayas is no longer a theory but an everyday reality. The Indian-Chinese border with a length of 3.5 thousand kilometres is not demarcated, and both have claims to large tracts of territory along the line of de facto control that replaces the border. The commanders of the Indian and Chinese units in the highlands of Ladakh have held more than a dozen rounds of negotiations. On October 10, they met for the 13th time, but this did not bring any results.
The new law on border protection, recently adopted in China, did not help to reduce the tension. The law defines how the PRC controls and protects the 22 thousand km long land border, in particular with Russia, the DPRK, India and 11 other states. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said: “China’s unilateral decision to introduce legislation may have implications for existing bilateral border management arrangements. This worries us. “Bagchi stressed that India expects China to take no action under the pretext of implementing this law.
Strictly speaking, Agni V is not an intercontinental missile as per international definition. Agni V is 5000 km against the international norm of 55000 km to be called an ICBM, which was adopted during the Cold War between the USSR and the USA. The missile was created ten years ago, and India does not have much experience with it. Nevertheless, India is constantly improving its missile program.
According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, India has about 140 nuclear warheads. India published its nuclear doctrine 12 years ago. It has undertaken three commitments: not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, to have a minimum number of nuclear charges, and to sign and ratify the nuclear test ban treaty. Twelve years have passed, the CTBT has not been signed. The Modi Government has blundered with signing the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC) for no apparent gain. By subscribing to the HCoC, Modi Government has voluntarily committed India to provide pre-launch notifications (PLNs) on ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches (SLVs) and test flights. Modi Government has also committed India to submit an annual declaration (AD) of India’s policies on ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles. China remains outside HCOC.