China appears to be accelerating the expansion of its nuclear arsenal, including work this year on more than 100 assumed suspected silos to hold missiles as U.S. officials try to grasp the exact reasons for the build-up.
According to The Wall Street Journal, in China’s western region, suspected missile silo construction has grown, which could be eventually used to store intercontinental missiles outfitted with nuclear tips that could ultimately reach the U.S.
In its investigation, analysts have weighed in on satellite images taken in the area.
While officials in the United States have not specified the possible reasons for the build-up, individuals close to the leadership in China said the acceleration in silo construction might be a deterrent intended to hedge bets against U.S. aggression, as well as a technique China is using to keep America from becoming directly involved in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.
Chinese sources have also warned that the government fears the U.S. could try to overturn the country’s communist regime after a policy shift during the Trump and Biden administrations.
Sources say the power in Beijing has not made any concrete decisions about whether or not it will use an offensive nuclear strike. U.S. security and military officials are concerned China will make a surprise nuclear strike.
Additionally, sources say that Chinese military leaders believe the country’s nuclear stockpile is too old to be able to counter a nuclear strike from the U.S adequately.
Reaction to attack Ukraine
In 1994, Ukraine surrendered its nuclear arsenal after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
It is believed that China believes Ukraine is in its current situation because it lost its nuclear deterrent threat by disarming itself. To Russia’s attack on Ukraine, international action, or lack of, may have shown China the value of nuclear weapons after Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on full alert.
Chinese officials have denied that nuclear missile silo expansions are taking place.
According to Fu Cong, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, “On the assertions made by U.S. officials that China is expanding dramatically its nuclear capabilities, first, let me say that this is untrue.”
Instead, Cong added that China is only trying to ensure its nuclear deterrent capabilities only meet the minimum amounts required to defend itself.
In contrast to the openness between the former Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980s, the secrecy of the Chinese nuclear program is seen as a critical issue.
So far, China has rejected calls for nuclear arms talks with the U.S., insisting that Washington needs to reduce its weapons before discussions.
According to private sector and U.S. government estimates, China only has nuclear weapons in the low hundreds compared to Russia and the United States, which have about 4,000 nuclear warheads combined.
Satellite images showed 45 of the 120 suspected nuclear missile silo covers had been removed, which is worrying to defense officials. Pentagon officials estimate China will have about 1,000 warheads by the end of the decade.
According to Matt Korda, senior research associate for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, explains that the removal of the covers may indicate that work on them has been completed.
The nuclear silos are large enough to hold long-range missiles able to reach the mainland of the United States.