According to a Pentagon report released Wednesday, China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than Pentagon officials had predicted a year ago. The report took a wide-ranging look at “military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China” (PRC).
“The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027,” the report said. “The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.”
The report did not say how many weapons China has currently. However, last year’s report said the number was in the “low 200s”, and was only likely to double by the end of this decade.
In addition, “the PRC is investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces,” the report said. “The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium.”
The 1,000 nuclear warheads China is predicted to have is still a far cry from the 3,750 weapons in America’s nuclear force. The Biden administration is working on a comprehensive review of its nuclear policy. Right now, there are no plans to add to that total.
The 3,750 weapons represent a slimming down of the U.S. nuclear force since 2003, when America had about 10,000 nuclear weapons.
It’s not just the rapidly expanding nuclear force that Pentagon officials are worried about regarding China. The report said China’s military, the PLA, “has sought to modernize its capabilities and improve its proficiencies across all warfare domains”.
“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen the PRC’s ability to “fight and win wars” against a “strong enemy (强敌)” [a likely euphemism for the United States], coerce Taiwan and rival claimants in territorial disputes, counter an intervention by a third party in a conflict along the PRC’s periphery, and project power globally,” the report said.
The report was based on information collected through December 2020. This means it does not reflect concerns Gen. Mark Milley’s expressed last month regarding China’s hypersonic weapon tests last summer.
“We are witnessing one of the largest shifts in global and geostrategic power that the world has witnessed,” Gen. Milley said shortly before the report’s release Wednesday.