China on Tuesday dismissed a recent Pentagon report that said China could have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 as “groundless speculation” and said the US was “hyping up” the threat of Beijing’s military.
Current estimates put China’s nuclear arsenal at about 350 warheads, significantly smaller than what the US and Russia possess. The Pentagon made the claim that China could bring the arsenal up to 1,500 warheads in its annual report on China’s military power.
The comments criticizing the report came from Tan Kefei, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s spokesman. According to AFP, he said the report “distorts China’s defense policy and military strategy, is groundless speculation on China’s military development… and is [the US’s] customary trick to hype up and exaggerate China’s so-called military threat.”
The Pentagon’s report comes amid efforts by the US to modernize its nuclear triad, a plan that could cost up to $1.5 trillion. Last week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin unveiled a major part of the modernization, the new B-21 bomber, which US officials have said is meant to intimidate China.
“The United States is making accusations and speculations about the modernization of China’s nuclear forces, when in fact it is the one that should deeply review and reflect on its own nuclear policy,” Tan added in his criticism of the Pentagon report.
Tan also pointed out that, unlike the US, China has a no first use policy for its nuclear weapons. “What needs to be emphasized is that China firmly pursues the nuclear strategy of self-defense and defense, always adheres to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and maintains its nuclear force at the minimum level required for national security,” he said.
The Pentagon report also said China is keeping up “persistent” military operations around Taiwan, which increased in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visiting the island in August.