US raises concern over China’s accelerated nuclear buildup

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FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing. Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-armed missile designed to evade U.S. defenses rumbled through Beijing as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th anniversary in power. China appears to be moving faster toward a capability to launch its newer nuclear missiles from underground silos, possibly to improve its ability to respond promptly to a nuclear attack, according to an American expert who analyzed satellite images of recent construction at a missile training area. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Reuters

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon and Republican congressmen on Tuesday aired fresh concerns about China’s build-up of its nuclear forces after a new report saying Beijing was building 110 more missile silos.

An American Federation of Scientists (AFS) report on Monday said satellite images showed China was building a new field of silos near Hami in the eastern part of its Xinjiang region.

The report came weeks after another on the construction of about 120 missile silos in Yumen, a desert area about 380km to the southeast.

“This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it,” the US Strategic Command said in tweet linked to a New York Times article on the AFS report.

The State Department in early July called China’s nuclear buildup concerning and said it appeared Beijing was deviating from decades of nuclear strategy based around minimal deterrence.

It called on China to engage with it “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilising arms races”.

Republican Congressman Mike Turner, ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said China’s nuclear build-up was “unprecedented” and made clear it was “deploying nuclear weapons to threaten the US and our allies”.

He said China’s refusal to negotiate arms control “should be a cause for concern and condemned by all responsible nations”.

Another Republican, Mike Rogers, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Chinese build-up showed the need to rapidly modernise the US nuclear deterrent.

A 2020 Pentagon report estimated China’s nuclear warhead stockpile in “the low 200s” and said it was projected to at least double in size as Beijing expands and modernises its forces.

Analysts say the US has around 3,800 warheads, and according to a State Department factsheet, 1,357 of those were deployed as of March 1.

Washington has repeatedly called on China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty.

The report on the new silos comes as Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to hold arms control talks with Russia in Geneva on Wednesday.

Sherman was in China earlier this week for talks at which Beijing accused Washington of creating an “imaginary enemy” to divert attention from domestic problems and suppress China.

Beijing says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the US and Russia and it is ready to conduct bilateral dialogues on strategic security “on the basis of equality and mutual respect”.