China is expanding its nuclear arsenal unexpectedly quickly while it continues to threaten Taiwan, warned a new Pentagon report on Thursday.
China has built up its nuclear arsenal to over 500 warheads, an increase of roughly 100 over the past year and more than U.S. security officials had predicted a year ago, according to the Defense Department’s annual China Military Power Report. The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that China’s nuclear stockpile will double to roughly 1,000 warheads by 2030.
“In 2022, Beijing continued its rapid nuclear expansion, and DoD estimates that the PRC possessed more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023 — on track to exceed previous projections,” the report says.
China’s stockpile of nuclear warheads is “on track to exceed previous projections,” a senior DOD official told POLITICO. “What they’re doing now, if you compare it to what they were doing about a decade ago, it really far exceeds that in terms of scale and complexity.”
“They’re expanding and investing in their land, sea and air-based nuclear delivery platforms, as well as the infrastructure that’s required to support this quite major expansion of their nuclear forces,” the official said.
China has taken aggressive steps in recent years to threaten Taiwan, which China claims is part of the Chinese state. Taiwan maintains it is independent.
“In 2022, the PRC amplified diplomatic, political, and military pressure against Taiwan. The PLA’s increased provocative and destabilizing actions in and around the Taiwan Strait included ballistic missile overflights of Taiwan, sharply increased flights into Taiwan’s self-declared ADIZ and a series of major military exercises near Taiwan,” the report states.
The report says that Chinese leader Xi Jinping, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, has made clear his desire to subsume Taiwan under the Chinese regime through “peaceful unification,” but “would never renounce the use of force as an option.”
Ying-yu Lin, a military expert at Tamkang University in Taipei, said that China’s military buildup and its aggressive posture toward Taiwan are linked.
“I don’t think that China has a timetable for unification, but they have a timetable for upgrading the military strength of the People’s Liberation Army,” Ying-yu said, according to The New York Times. “We cannot say that as the People’s Liberation Army’s strength grows, it will certainly take on Taiwan. The two must be clearly distinguished.”