The US is aware of China’s nuclear buildup, including the construction of new silos, but won’t disclose its intelligence assessments, the Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
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“We are not going to get into intelligence assessments of Chinese nuclear capabilities… We remain concerned about China’s modernization and the development of capabilities that in many ways seemed to serve no other purpose than to try to prevent the US and allied access to areas of the Indo-Pacific,” Kirby said during a briefing.
Recent satellite images revealed the construction of 119 missile silos in China’s Gansu province. China is believed to have an arsenal of 250 to 350 nuclear weapons, according to published reports.
“We made no secret in fact that we are aware that they continue to build out nuclear capabilities including the construction of silos,” Kirby said.
The State Department earlier said that new silos reported by US media may suggest that China’s nuclear arsenal will “grow more quickly and to a higher level than perhaps previously anticipated.”
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Earlier this month, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price had stated that the US is concerned about China’s accelerated buildup of its nuclear arsenal.
“These reports and other developments suggest that the PRC’s [China] nuclear arsenal will grow more quickly and to a higher level than perhaps previously anticipated,” Price said when asked about reports that Beijing is building more than 100 nuclear missile silos. “This buildup, it is concerning and it raises questions about the PRC’s intents.”
Price emphasized that China’s nuclear buildup reinforces the need for arms control measures and noted that Washington is urging Beijing to work together on arms control in order to avoid destabilizing arms races.
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China is deviating from decades of nuclear strategy based around minimum deterrence, Price said.
The Washington Post has reported that China has started the construction of more than 100 new ballistic missile silos near the city of Yumen in the province of Gansu.
A total of 119 almost identical construction sites in Gansu show elements featured by the existing Chinese launch facilities, The Washington Post reported, citing commercial satellite images obtained by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey. According to experts, the number of new missiles for these silos could be much smaller.
“If the silos under construction at other sites across China are added to the count, the total comes to about 145 silos under construction,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a part of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told The Washington Post.
He emphasized that China was expanding its nuclear forces to deter the United States, survive the latter’s possible first nuclear strike and be capable of defeating the US missile defense.