China expanding nuclear arsenal faster than expected, DIA says

by WorldTribune Staff, April 30, 2021

Communist China is rapidly building up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and is on pace to double its stockpile of nuclear warheads by 2030, the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said on Thursday.

China’s nuclear expansion “is on track to exceed our previous projection,” DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

China’s DF-41 missiles can carry up to 10 warheads each. / Reuters

“PLA nuclear forces are expected to continue to grow with their nuclear stockpile likely to at least double in size over this decade and increase the threat to the U.S. homeland,” Berrier said.

Berrier said the communist nation’s nuclear buildup is part of a “massive military modernization” that is being “accelerated as a deterrent.”

The acceleration was mandated under a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) communique issued in October 2020, which outlined plans for creating what Berrier described as “high-level strategic deterrence.”

DIA analysts say China is working to narrow the gap in the U.S. qualitative edge in nuclear forces, or to either match or exceed U.S. capabilities, Berrier told the committee.

Berrier also said China’s new DF-17 hypersonic cruise missile could be outfitted with a nuclear warhead.

“That poses a significant risk,” he said. “The speed at which those weapons travel makes it very, very difficult to track in their entire trajectory.”

The DIA estimates the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) currently has a nuclear warhead arsenal in the “low 200s.”

Mark Schneider, an analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy and former Pentagon official, said in a recent article that the DIA’s warhead estimate is almost certainly too low.

Schneider estimates that the combined nuclear and non-strategic warhead stockpile in China could be as high as 3,000.

“China has traditionally been extremely secretive about its nuclear forces,” Schneider said in a recent article in Real Clear Defense, adding that recent Strategic Command testimony indicates that China’s warhead expansion is the result of deployments of its DF-41 missiles, which can carry up to 10 warheads each.

“A major reassessment of China’s nuclear capabilities is long overdue. If China has about 1,000 nuclear warheads in 2030, this would represent a very serious threat. If it already has about 1,000 nuclear warheads today and is increasing that number, this would be even more alarming,” Schneider wrote.

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