New Delhi: China has a stockpile of approximately 410 nuclear warheads for delivery by land-based ballistic missiles, sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers said The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in the latest article Nuclear Notebook.
The Nuclear Notebook article says that additional warheads are thought to be in production to arm additional road-mobile and silo-based missiles and bombers.
The Pentagon’s 2022 report to Congress estimated that by 2030 China’s nuclear stockpile “will have about 1,000 operational nuclear warheads, most of which will be fielded on systems capable of ranging the continental United States”.
If the expansion continues at the current rate, the Pentagon projected, China might field a stockpile of about 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035.
China continues the nuclear weapons modernization program that it initiated in the 1990s and 2000s but is expanding it significantly by fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than ever before.
China’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), has significantly advanced the construction of its three new missile silo fields for solid-fuel ICBMs, and has also expanded the construction of new silos for its liquid-fuel DF-5 ICBMs, the Nuclear NoteBook article in the magazine article said.
China is also significantly expanding its DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile force and has also begun replacing some older conventional short-range ballistic missiles with medium-range ballistic missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles.
At sea, China apparently has refitted its six Type-094 ballistic missile submarines with the longer-range JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Nuclear Notebook article read.
In addition, China has recently reassigned a nuclear mission to its bombers and is developing an air-launched ballistic missile that might have nuclear capability.
China’s Nuclear doctrine and policy
China’s official policy identifies self-defence and counter-strike response as key guidelines for its military strategy and reiterates a historical commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons.
Since its first nuclear test in 1964, China has maintained a minimum nuclear deterrence posture and emphasized that a credible second-strike capability would be sufficient to deter an attack on China.
China’s ambassador for disarmament affairs Li Song In his speech to the UN General Assembly First Committee session on nonproliferation in October 2022, claimed that China “keeps its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security and does not engage in any nuclear arms race with any other country.”
However, the claim is being challenged as China continues expanding its nuclear arsenal. China has never defined how big a “minimum” capability is or what activities constitute an “arms race,” and the policies evidently do not prohibit a massive expansion in response to other nuclear-armed states.
Russia's exit from the New START treaty has already led to fear of the proliferation of nuclear weapons across the globe.