China’s “dramatic” effort to modernise its military by increasing its ability to launch nuclear warheads has seen it modernising its stockpiles at a “accelerating pace” and will have more than 1,000 deployed warheads by 2030, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The Chinese had increased their forces in multiple ways, including by building modern aircraft carriers, submarines and anti-ship ballistic missiles that could threaten aircraft carriers, a report to Congress said.
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It said US intelligence estimates had China as holding between 900 and 1,100 active nuclear warheads.
The Pentagon report comes as Beijing has been engaged in a high-profile military parade marking the end of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s four decades of war against communist and Japanese forces, which ended in 1949.
The parade was held to commemorate China’s military achievements and was attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The US report cited Chinese military writings that said the country had the capabilities to launch nuclear strikes anywhere in the world and wanted to gain access to increasingly hard-to-secure US nuclear weapons to extend its nuclear deterrence.
“They have failed on that goal, as they continue to pursue a reduction in US strategic forces and the development of offensive capabilities, including new intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and aircraft carriers,” the report said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated Beijing’s position that “China never seeks hegemony” and welcomes the US to come to a “constructive” dialogue on its arms buildup.
Hua said that “actual policy remains unchanged” on China’s goal of an “overall strategic parity” and its stance is “totally consistent with the nuclear non-proliferation regime”.
The report said China had increased its arsenal of ballistic missiles in four significant ways, the most recently by adding 14 nuclear-capable cruise missiles and by increasing the range of land-based intermediate-range missiles that pose a particular threat to US forces in Asia.
In July, a US thinktank said that China had deployed its first submarine-launched nuclear-capable missiles in the Pacific since the end of the second world war.
China has become increasingly assertive in the disputed South China Sea, claiming almost the entire waterway as its territory in a move critics warn could spark an arms race and stoke tension with Japan and other states in the region.