Despite China’s growing potential for nuclear blackmail, disarmament still a Biden priority

FPI / August 18, 2021

By Richard Fisher

America’s nuclear crisis with China has become worse in the last week with the revelation of a third People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silo field, raising the prospect that total PLA deployed warhead levels could exceed 4,000 later this decade.

China’s DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles at a military parade on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2019. / Greg Baker / AFP / Getty Images

This revelation came from two sources. On Aug.t 12, veteran Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz reported he was told by “Pentagon officials” that the third silo field “was identified from satellite imagery by U.S. intelligence agencies in the past several weeks and appears equal in size to two other new Chinese missile fields recently identified.”

Speaking at a conference on missile defense, Gertz quoted U.S. Strategic Command commander Adm. Charles Richard saying, “We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China…The explosive growth in their nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I described as breathtaking…frankly, that word ‘breathtaking’ may not be enough.”

Adm. Richard also said, “If you enjoy looking at commercial satellite imagery or stuff in China, can I suggest you keep looking?” As also on Aug. 12, the website of China Aerospace Studies Institute of the U.S. Air Force featured a study by analyst Rod Lee titled, “PLA Likely Begins Construction of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Silo Site Near Hanggin Banner.”

This article featured commercial satellite imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite taken starting in mid-May, showing similar structures and construction related to ICBM silos in the Hanggin Banner region of Inner Mongolia, also seen previously at silo construction sites at Jilantai (16 silos), Yumen (120 silos) and Hami (110 silos).

This increases the potential total number of PLARF ICBM silos as greater than 336.

Assuming that the 10x warhead DF-41 solid-fuel ICBM is stationed in these silos, that increases the future potential deployed warhead levels for this force at 3,360. ….

On Aug. 6, after a virtual statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the ASEAN Regional Forum, the State Department issued a statement saying, “The Secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.”

No statement from Blinken to Americans, no real assessment of this growing existential threat to the United States, no call for the U.S. to rebuild its nuclear deterrent capabilities.

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