China is rapidly increasing its nuclear arsenal and is expected to double its number of nuclear warheads from more than 500 currently to more than 1,000 by 2030, which exceeds earlier projections, the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military growth said this week.
The Pentagon previously estimated that Beijing had more than 400 nuclear warheads as of 2021.
The Chinese military’s “evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen the PRC’s ability to ‘fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’ (a likely euphemism for the United States), counter an intervention by a third party in a conflict along the PRC’s periphery, and project power globally,” the Thursday report said, noting the Chinese Communist Party’s goal of having a “world-class” military by 2049.
It added, “The PRC probably will use its new fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons program, despite publicly maintaining these technologies are intended for peaceful purposes.”
The military is also developing new ICBMs that will “significantly improve its nuclear-capable missile forces and will require increased nuclear warhead production” and may be exploring the development of conventionally-armed intercontinental range missile systems that would allow it to “threaten conventional strikes against targets in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska.”
The Pentagon said that Russia’s war in Ukraine had presented an “unexpected challenge” for Beijing.
“As Beijing deliberates the scale and scope of material commitments to Russia’s war on Ukraine, it probably will seek to balance its strategic partnership with Russia while avoiding reputational or economic costs that could result from its assistance,” the report said.
China is “almost certainly is learning lessons” from the war in Ukraine in relation to a potential conflict over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a Chinese territory.
China already has the world’s largest navy and has increased its number of ships from 340 to 370 since last year, the report added.
Beijing is expected to increase its number of ships to 435 by 2030.
On Friday, China foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the Pentagon report “ignores the facts, is full of prejudice and spreads the theory of the threat posed by China.”
Mao continued, “As long as any country does not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against China, it will not be threatened by China’s nuclear weapons.”
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.