Quick, always faster. China advances more than expected on nuclear weapons program, says US Department of Defense in its annual report on the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), published Wednesday, November 3.
That Beijing wants an army “World class” in 2049, thus approaching military parity with American power, is nothing new. Modernization has fallen behind in some conventional areas, but the acceleration of its effort would be notable in nuclear, according to Washington. Enough to ” enable the People’s Republic of China to have up to 700 operational nuclear warheads in 2027 ”says the report – the year 2027 having been added in 2020 as a new stage in the reform of the PLA by the Chinese Communist Party.
Thus, the APL “Likely intends to have at least 1,000 head by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the US Department of Defense projected in 2020”. A year ago, the same report estimated that the PLA had 200 nuclear warheads and would double that number by 2030 – a low estimate, however, with serious open sources putting the arsenal at between 220 and 320 weapons instead, explained to the World Benjamin Hautecouverture, of the Foundation for Strategic Research.
In his posture displayed a “Limited deterrence”, Beijing wants to maintain a nuclear force “Able to survive a first strike and respond with enough force to conduct multiple counterattacks”, analyzes the Pentagon. In this context, “It chooses its targets to achieve a de-escalation and return to a conventional conflict”. But due to lack of transparency, great ambiguities remain. If the American (3,800 heads), Russian (4,495) or French (290) operational weapons are declared, this is not the case for the Chinese. Beijing ruled the report ” full of prejudices “ and called the mention of a Chinese military threat « manipulation ».
300 silos are said to be under construction
China “Has probably already set up a nuclear triad”, assures the Pentagon, or platforms capable of delivering the bomb from land, sea and air. In 2019, the PLA announced that it had validated its airborne component, thanks to the H-6N in-flight refueling bomber. In 2020, it launched more than 250 ballistic missiles for tests or exercises, “Be more than the rest of the world”, we read in the report. She “Develops new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) which will require an increase in the production of nuclear warheads”, he adds. The development of hundreds of missile silos would further demonstrate that Beijing intends “Increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces, moving towards a launch on alert posture” – be able to launch a retaliatory strike as soon as the approach of an enemy missile is detected.
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Washington says Beijing is stepping up nuclear weapons program