The Wall Street Journal has cited anonymous Chinese officials and satellite imagery of Beijing’s missile silos
China is expediting efforts to expand its nuclear arsenal as Beijing is seriously concerned about the kind of threats the US may pose to the country, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
According to the report, the Chinese leadership made the strategic decision to beef up the country’s nuclear deterrence long before the current escalation over Ukraine. However, the latest events in Europe, as well as the increasingly confrontational rhetoric between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, have prompted an acceleration of the program. The Journal arrived at these conclusions based on information obtained from anonymous sources who “work with various agencies involved in security issues” in China, but none of whom are “directly involved in the setting of nuclear policy.”
As further proof of its claims, the report also cites satellite imagery of more than 100 suspected missile silos in one of China’s western regions, where increased activity has been detected. The newspaper surmises that these facilities could hold China’s new long-range DF-41 missile, which was put into service in 2020. This type of missile can carry a nuclear warhead and is capable of reaching the US mainland, the report noted.
The Journal report claims that until recently the Chinese government had not seen the expansion of its nuclear capabilities as the country’s top priority, given that such weapons are of little value in most local and conventional wars. However, the Trump administration’s hawkish stance on China was a turning point that made the leadership in Beijing reconsider the importance of nuclear weapons. According to the sources cited in the Journal report, the Chinese authorities now suspect that Washington’s endgame is the toppling of the Chinese Communist Party, and that the US might be willing to take greater risks to stop China’s rise. Additionally, Beijing is reportedly concerned that Washington could deploy its nukes should a military conflict break out over Taiwan.
An anonymous source told the newspaper that China’s top brass consider their nuclear arsenal in its current form to be too outdated to act as a meaningful deterrent against a potential American nuclear strike. “China’s inferior nuclear capability could only lead to growing U.S. pressure on China,” one person claiming to be close to the Chinese leadership told the American journalists.
The paper assumes that Beijing is not planning to bloat its nuclear capabilities beyond what is necessary to ensure its security interests. Moreover, according to the report, China remains as committed as ever to not using nuclear weapons first.
The report concludes by citing a retired Chinese military official, who said that “no matter how the situation develops in the future, the world will be more confrontational,” meaning that “China definitely needs to maintain nuclear deterrence.”
China does not publish any details of its nuclear arsenals and has so far refused to engage in nuclear arms control talks with the US, insisting that Washington should cut its own nuclear inventory first.