In a report on China’s military power published Wednesday, the Pentagon claimed China could have 700 nuclear warheads and possibly 1,000 by 2030, a significant increase in the US military’s earlier estimates.
The report reads: “The accelerating pace of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China’s] nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.”
It’s in the Pentagon’s interest to overestimate China’s arsenal since it could be used to justify more military spending, including the over $1 trillion plan to modernize the US arsenal. Just last year, the Pentagon estimated China would only have 400 deliverable warheads by 2030.
Even if China races to develop 1,000 nuclear warheads, it would still be a fraction of the US and Russia’s nuclear arsenals. The State Department recently disclosed that the US has about 5,750 warheads, and Russia is estimated to have about 6,375.
Washington frequently calls for Beijing to participate in arms control talks with the US and Russia. But if the US were serious about trilateral nuclear arms control, it would have to work with Russia to dismantle a significant number of warheads to make the talks worthwhile for China.