Chinese Media: Beijing Must ‘Rapidly Increase the Number of Nuclear Warheads’

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-armed missile designed to evade U.S. defenses rumbled through Beijing as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th …
Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

The editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times, its most belligerent English-language state newspaper, demanded on Thursday that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “rapidly increase the number of commissioned nuclear warheads” in response to an allegedly growing threat of war from the United States.

“As the U.S. strategic containment of Chinas [sic] has increasingly intensified, I would like to remind again that we have plenty of urgent tasks,” Hu Xijin wrote, “but among the most important ones is to rapidly increase the number of commissioned nuclear warheads, and the DF-41s, the strategic missiles that are capable to strike long-range and have high-survivability, in the Chinese arsenal.”

Hu described China’s nuclear arsenal as the “cornerstone” of China’s military policy against the United States.

“The number of China’s nuclear warheads must reach the quantity that makes U.S. elites shiver should they entertain the idea of engaging in a military confrontation with China,” Hu asserted. “U.S. hostility toward China is burning. We must use our strength, and consequences that Washington cannot afford to bear if it takes risky moves, to keep them sober.”

The Global Times accompanied Hu’s commentary with an article quoting Chinese “experts” who agreed that Beijing should prioritize shoring up its nuclear arsenal to better terrify the United States during the tenure of President Joe Biden.

“Considering that the U.S. deems China its top imaginary enemy, China needs to increase the quantity and quality of nuclear weapons, especially submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” the Times, citing an expert identified as “Song Zhongping,” suggested on Friday, “to effectively safeguard its national security, sovereignty and development interests.” Song emphasized the alleged importance of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) given the fact that the United States borders two oceans, one of which divides it from China.

The clamor from the Communist Party’s propaganda arms to enhance China’s ability to execute nuclear bombings appears to have been prompted by the arrival of Biden’s first defense budget proposal as president. Biden released the proposal to Congress, which much approve it, on Friday. According to reports, Biden’s administration is asking for $714 billion for the Pentagon for the 2022 fiscal year, much of which “is expected to single out competition with China.” While Chinese observers are naturally most concerned about the percentage of funding meant to keep the U.S. military competitive with the People’s Liberation Army, (PLA), reports also suggest that the prodigious expenditure will also include spending on topics that have little to do with the military, like climate change.

“The bill never passes if it’s not bipartisan, we all understand our responsibility,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told Defense News of the budget, acknowledging that Republicans may express concerns regarding the amount of spending and where it is destined to go. “And that’s [Republicans’] incentive: we want to pass a bill. And there are thousands of things in that bill ― or hundreds ― that are important, on a whole series of policy levels, on a bipartisan basis.”

The Global Times, which amplifies the voice of the Communist Party but attempts to play the role of an independent observer, has encouraged the development of a larger nuclear arsenal on several occasions. A year ago, an editorial in the newspaper declared it “an urgent task for China to expand its nuclear arsenal and strengthen its strategic strike capacities,” particularly its capability to attack the U.S. mainland.

“China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time. It needs to have at least 100 Dongfeng-41 strategic missiles,” the Global Times asserted. “We are a peace-loving nation and have committed to never being the first to use nuclear weapons, but we need a larger nuclear arsenal to curb US strategic ambitions and impulses toward China.”

Evidence suggests that China is not merely discussing increasing its nuclear capabilities. A 2020 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) revealed that China added at least 30 nuclear warheads to its arsenal in 2019, bucking the international trend of nuclear non-proliferation, and may soon reach at least 1,000 weapons.

U.S. State Department reportedly accused China in a confidential report in April 2020 of violating nuclear weapons testing bans, according to the Wall Street Journal.

 “The pace and manner by which the Chinese government is modernizing its stockpile is worrying, destabilizing, and illustrates why China should be brought into the global arms control framework,” an anonymous U.S. official told the South China Morning Post at the time.

In September, the Pentagon warned that it had reason to believe China was looking to double the size of its nuclear stockpile.

“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms,” the Department of Defense’s China Military Power report read. “Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile — currently estimated to be in the low 200s — is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces.”

The administration of President Donald Trump attempted to address the issue of China’s growing nuclear weapons capabilities by suggesting China join the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) agreement currently in place between Russia and the United States. The 2020 SIPRI report noted that the total number of nuclear weapons on the planet decreased significantly the year before largely on the shoulders of Russia and America; China is not beholden to any such agreement.

The New START was set to expire in February 2021, making negotiations last year urgent. Russian leader Vladimir Putin urged Trump to extend the deal as-is for one year, which Trump refused to do without discussions on including China. Upon becoming president, Biden extended the agreement by five years, effectively taking the issue off the table.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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