Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: New nuclear threat ‘real’ and ‘rising’

FPI / June 4, 2023


The growing nuclear threat posed by China is “potentially catastrophic” and the United States needs to bolster its deterrence to deal with it, a group of senior specialists have warned.

In this file photo, China’s People’s Liberation Army displays DF-26 ballistic missiles in a parade. / Andy Wong / Associated Press

Biden administration plans and policies are not sufficient to handle China’s rapid large-scale buildup of nuclear missiles, submarines, bombers, and orbiting nuclear strike weapons which have significantly increased the danger of nuclear war, the specialists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California warned in a new 71-page report.

The February 2022 agreement between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin to increase strategic cooperation with “no limits” provides multiple ways for both nations to coordinate on policies to challenge U.S. deterrence forces, the report said, forcing U.S. planners to divide their attention and resources between two regions.

The current U.S. strategic triad consisting of aging land-based missiles, missile submarines, and aerial bombers is “only marginally sufficient to meet today’s requirements” for deterring China and Russia,” the report said. “For tomorrow’s requirements, the deficiencies are even more striking. The United States should plan and prepare to deploy additional warheads and bombs from the reserve it has maintained for such a possibility.”

Coordinated Chinese-Russian action could also divide the U.S. and its allies, slow power projection, and threaten nuclear escalation to coerce Washington, analysts at the laboratory’s Center for Global Security Research concluded.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is funded by the Energy Department and has participated in the designing of nuclear weapons.

The bipartisan report was produced at the request of retiring Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, according to a report by security correspondent Bill Gertz for The Washington Times.

The report’s authors contend that the Biden administration’s recent nuclear posture review sent the wrong signals to China and Russia.

“The first is the commitment to continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy; at a time when President Putin and Chairman Xi have increased the role, this U.S. commitment may be received in both capitals as confirmatory proof of what they believe: that the United States is in decline and retreat. It certainly troubles many allies,” the report said.

The report, “China’s Emergence as a Second Nuclear Peer,” concludes that the U.S. must act quickly with China on course to join the United States and Russia as the world’s third nuclear superpower.

“These are all facets of the problem of concerted nuclear-backed aggression. The sum of these geopolitical parts is troubling to us but the whole is potentially catastrophic. From the geopolitical perspective, the risk of major power war is real and appears to be rising,” said the report from the laboratory.

The report calls for the U.S. to add nuclear warheads to existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles, building a new nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile, and preparing to deploy new long-range Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missiles on road-mobile launchers.

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