Chinese government believes strong stockpile can deter the US from interfering in potential conflict over Taiwan.
People familiar with Chinese leadership’s thinking told the Wall Street Journal that its assessment of the threat posed by the US has changed. In response, the country has taken steps to speed up an expansion of its nuclear arsenal.
The planned expansion predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the US’ hesitancy to become directly involved due to the country’s nuclear weapons has stood out to China. It has reinforced Beijing’s decision to develop more nuclear weapons as a deterrent to any action it might take involving Taiwan.
Work has accelerated this year on over 100 suspected missile silos that could be used to house nuclear tipped missiles with enough range to reach the US, according to satellite images of the area.
China maintains that it is only keeping an arsenal large enough to ensure China’s own security interests and that its current weapons are too outdated to serve that purpose.
“China’s inferior nuclear capability could only lead to growing U.S. pressure on China,” a person close to Chinese leadership said.
While current government estimates put China’s nuclear arsenal in the low hundreds, well below the approximately 4,000 held by each the US and Russia, the Pentagon expects the country to have at least 1,000 by the end of the decade.