Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing in October 2019.
AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
China has more than 400 nuclear warheads and will likely have over 1,500 by 2035, the Pentagon said.
That represents a big acceleration compared to Pentagon predictions from just two years ago.
It brings China’s arsenal closer to the levels of the US and Russia, which have the biggest in the world.
The Pentagon said China will likely have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, up from the 400 it has now, moving it closer to the levels of the US and Russia.
In its annual China security report, published on Tuesday, the Pentagon said that if the country continued on its current pace it “could likely field a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads” by 2035.
China’s output has accelerated beyond the numbers the Pentagon had predicting two years ago.
In 2020, the Pentagon said that China had around 200 warheads, and that the figure would “at least double in size” over the next 10 years.
But it seems that increase took just two years.
The Pentagon said that China had “probably accelerated its nuclear expansion” in 2021, adding that the country likely wants to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030.
The accelerating pace brings China closer to the levels of the US and Russia, which have the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals.
As of September 2020 — the most recent official update — the US had 3,750 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, deployed or in reserve, according to the State Department.
The figure for Russia was around 4,477 as of February 2022, according to think tank the Federation of American Scientists.
The US and Russia have limited the number of long-distance nuclear warheads that they have deployed to 1,550 under the New START Treaty, but China is not part of the agreement.
The Pentagon said that China “has not declared an end goal nor acknowledged the scale of its expansion, and has declined to engage in substantive arms control discussions.”
It added that China will “expand and diversify its nuclear forces” over the next ten years, likely looking to at least equal the “effectiveness, reliability, and/or survivability of some of the warheads and delivery platforms currently under development by the United States and/or Russia.”