A new Pentagon report warns the Chinese military is ramping up production of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and working on a system to launch them from the air.
Since the collapse of the USSR, America has been the world’s unchallenged superpower. It has a military capacity that few other nations could hope to match and a nuclear capability that is second to none.
But that is set to change. According to a Pentagon report issued this week, the Chinese military plans to double the size of its nuclear arsenal.
The secretive superpower is currently thought to have between 200 and 300 viable nuclear ballistic missiles which can be launch from land or sea.
In the next 10 years, according to the report, Chinese military chiefs aim to expand that threat considerably, and add the potential to launch missiles from aircraft too.
The focus of this extra military muscle, according to the US report, is Taiwan. With tensions already running high in the South China Sea, the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] is planning joint operations aimed at frustrating any US effort to intervene on Taiwan’s behalf.
According to the Pentagon document, the PLA can already match or beat US military capability in several key areas, including shipbuilding, land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, and air defence systems.
“It is likely that Beijing will seek to develop a military by mid-century that is equal to — or in some cases superior to — the US military, or that of any other great power that [China] views as a threat,” the report added.
As well as the threat to Taiwan, there has been long-standing friction along China’s border with India.
Since May this year, Chinese and Indian troops have engaged in increasingly violent clashes at border flashpoint such as the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Although India has not released any official statements about the size of its nuclear stockpile, recent estimates suggest that the country has 140-150 nuclear weapons and has produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for a further 150–200 nuclear weapons.