The United States military says China will increase the size of its nuclear arms supply by at least 100 percent over the next 10 years.
The Department of Defense made the prediction in a yearly report to Congress, called “China Military Power.” The report was released on Tuesday. It says China’s plan to modernize and expand its nuclear force is part of a larger effort to equal and, in some cases, pass the U.S. military by 2049 as the leading power in the Indo-Pacific area.
The report says China is thought to have more than 200 nuclear bombs. They are said to include nuclear warheads that can be fitted on missiles that can reach the United States.
US supply much larger
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Chad Sbragia spoke to reporters about the report. He said the military’s leadership is concerned about the numbers of bombs, “but also just the trajectory of China's nuclear developments writ large.”
The United States nuclear supply with its estimated 3,800 active nuclear warheads, remains much larger than China’s. The U.S. has submarines, airplanes and long-distance missiles that can carry out nuclear strikes. China lacks the ability to launch nuclear weapons from the air. However, the new report notes that the Chinese military announced late last year it had an air-to-air refueling airplane, one equipped to carry such weapons.
In the past 15 years, the Chinese Navy has built 12 nuclear submarines, the report noted. Six of them can be used as sea-based nuclear deterrents. By the middle 2020s, the report said, China will likely build a new, guided-missile nuclear attack submarine. It could carry out a secret land-attack if equipped with the right missiles.
China has rejected pressure from the Trump administration to join the U.S. and Russia in a deal to limit nuclear arms. If China does not join the treaty, known as the New START, the U.S. might let the deal expire in February of 2021.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned that the world's "free and open" system was under attack by what he called China's "rule-breaking behavior" in the Indo-Pacific area. Esper spoke during a stop in Hawaii. He is now visiting Asian and Pacific Island countries to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Esper called the Indo-Pacific area the "epicenter" of great power competition. He promised that the United States would not surrender an inch to countries that threaten international freedoms.
A U.S. official told VOA that Chinese forces fired four missiles into the disputed South China Sea last week during military exercises.
The U.S. military later released a statement. It said that China's actions violate its promise to not militarize the South China Sea. It also said China’s actions do not support the United States' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific area.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Reuters News Agency reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
trajectory – n. a path, progression, or line of development resembling a physical trajectory - example: an upward career trajectory
writ large – idiom shown in a clear way
deterrent – n. something that makes someone decide not to do something
expire – v. to end, to no longer be in effect after a period of time
inch – n. a unit of length equal to ¹/₃₆ yard (2.54 centimeters)
vision – n. something dreamed or imagined
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.