(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times)
The People’s Republic China (PRC) is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal and “intends to produce over 1,000 warheads by 2030”, a new report by the Pentagon has revealed. In a report titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC) 2021”, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense said that the accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the country “to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027”.
“The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030,” the report also stated, adding that it will significantly outpace Pentagon estimates from last year. In 2020, the US Defense Department had projected that China would have 400 nuclear warheads by 2030. The report also said that China is heavily investing in and expanding the number of its land, sea and air-base nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support the expansion.
“The PRC has possibly already established a nascent ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities,” Pentagon stated in the report. It also informed that the country is supporting its nuclear expansion by “increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.”
“New developments in 2020 further suggest that the PRC intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force,” the Pentagon also stated in the report that was released on Wednesday. This comes in the backdrop of rising tension between the United States and China over Taiwan, where it had flown a record number of military flights, sparking concerns of a potential conflict. According to reports, China sent over 200 aircraft to Taiwan for exercises in the month of October, to exert pressure on the self-ruled island.
The United States, which backed the democratic government in Taiwan, has been trading warnings with China over the same. China claims the island as part of its own territory and views any foreign intervention over Taiwan as interference in its domestic affairs. Meanwhile, the report also mentioned that China is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow China’s People’s Liberation Army “to project and sustain military power at greater distances”. “Beyond its base in Djibouti, the PRC is pursuing additional military facilities to support naval, air, ground, cyber, and space power projection,” the Pentagon said in the report.