Adm. Charles Richard, the head of US Strategic Command, said China has a nuclear arsenal that is “inconsistent” with Beijing’s no-first-use policy, a policy the US has refused to adopt. Like most accusations about Beijing’s military, this claim serves as an excuse for the Pentagon to spend more money building its own arsenal.
“China in particular is developing a stack of capabilities that, to my mind, is increasingly inconsistent with a stated no-first-use policy,” Richard told reporters on Monday.
“It’s not where they are, it’s where they’re going,” Richard said. “We’re going to have to move equally as fast in order to pace that threat.” Richard’s comments come after a report from the Pentagon that warned of China’s nuclear capabilities and said Beijing could double its nuclear arsenal by 2030.
Current estimates put China’s arsenal at around 300 warheads, meaning even if they do double the stockpile, it will still be significantly smaller than Washington’s, which is close to 6,000 warheads. Although this number doesn’t seem important to Adm. Richard, who said measuring the stockpile is a “relatively crude” measure of China’s capabilities.
The Trump administration has been using China as an excuse not to renew the New START treaty with Russia. The New START is the last major arms control agreement between the two powers and limits the number of nuclear warheads each nation can have deployed. China has no interest in trilateral arms control agreements since the US and Russia have vastly larger stockpiles.
If the New START expires, the US nuclear weapons budget could skyrocket, and a new arms race will likely begin. Marshall Billingslea, President Trump’s envoy for arms control, said the US was willing to spend its competitors “into oblivion” if a new arms race does start.