JUST IN: Chinese Nuclear Advancements Stoke Pentagon Fears of New 'Peer' Threat

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Chinese military vehicles carry DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles during a parade.

China is making inroads in developing a robust nuclear triad that could put it on par with the United States, said the head of Strategic Command July 30.

A nuclear triad consists of air-, ground- and sea-based weapons.

“China is on a trajectory to be a strategic peer to us by the end of the decade,” said Adm. Charles Richard. “For the first time ever, the U.S. is going to face two peer capable nuclear competitors … who you have to deter differently," he said referring to China and Russia. "We have never faced that situation before."

The 2018 National Defense Strategy identified both Beijing and Moscow as great power competitors.

The United States’ strategic deterrent in coming years will be tested in ways that it hasn’t been before, Richard said during remarks at a virtual event hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

“We need to be ready to answer that,” he said. “The threat is significant.”

Richard noted that Beijing is bolstering its atomic arsenal by investing in air-launched systems, a change in its approach from previous eras, Richard said. “They are about to finish building out for the first time an actual triad by adding a strategic capability to their air leg.”

China so far has yet to deploy a formidable nuclear bomber force, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a bipartisan nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The air-based leg of its triad has historically been a low priority for the country, it noted.

“China currently possesses a small number of air-based platforms for nuclear weapon delivery, but is expected to bring a new strategic bomber and air-launched ballistic missiles into operation,” according to a fact sheet produced by the center. “That may include the development of a new nuclear-capable subsonic strategic stealth bomber, the Xian H-20, which could enter service as early as 2025.”

The H-20 will be similar to the U.S. B-2 bomber, according to the organization.

Richard said he could not go into great detail regarding China’s nuclear pursuits, but he warned that Beijing is expanding its capabilities across the board.

“They have new command and control. They have new warning. They have better readiness,” he said. “While they espouse a minimum deterrent strategy, they have a number of capabilities that seem inconsistent with that.”

China is estimated to have about 300 nuclear weapons — a fraction of the 1,500 or so strategic warheads currently deployed by the U.S. military — and has previously espoused a a strategy known as "minimum deterrence," which seeks to ensure that a nation would have a sufficient second-strike capability if it were to suffer a nuclear attack.

However, Beijing has the capability to execute any number of strategic employment strategies, not just a minimum deterrent, Richard said.

The United States is not standing idly by as China modernizes its forces. The Pentagon is in the process of upgrading all three legs of its triad, to include a new B-21 stealth bomber, Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, and air-launched cruise missiles known as the Long Range Stand Off weapon.

U.S. defense officials tout the benefits of each leg of the triad. Bombers are flexible because they can be recalled and can be used for signalling adversaries; submarines are the most survivable because of their stealthiness; and ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles are the most responsive to a surprise attack, advocates say.

Meanwhile, some observers in the United States are wary of the high price tag associated with modernizing, operating and maintaining the triad, which is estimated to cost more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years. Some lawmakers and others have called for scaling back or eliminating the ground-based leg of the arsenal, although the idea has yet to gain significant political traction in Washington, D.C., in recent years.


Topics: International

Comments (4)

Re: Chinese Nuclear Advancements Stoke Pentagon Anxiety

US has 6149 nuke warheads with 1750 deployed, Russia has 6490 nukes with 1600 deployed. Each nation has more than 1/2 of the reserved nukes to be activated within a few days. China started nukes in 1964, if anyone say they only have 300 nukes after 55 years of development, he is in a dreamworld. There are more than 30,000 miles of military tunnels in China, built since 1970's, it can hide a whole lot of nuke warheads and missiles. There are realistic estimates that put Chinese nukes as 2000 or more can be deployed. That is why they are trying to catch up with nuke triad delivery platforms, i.e. ICBM, ASBM, Supersonic cruise, air launch BM, etc. In the moto of "Have nukes, will deliver." Pentagon's anxiety is not unjustified.

Jcinter at 3:51 PM
Re: Chinese Nuclear Advancements Stoke Pentagon Anxiety

The notion that the USA "just has to do a little bit better than the other guy" is coming true from the OTHER direction in that they're doing better than us for cheaper the price for perhaps better the performance!

The key to their success---build, build, build, and build new! DoD stalls in building new facilities and then cancels programs that are tested to work to save money but then cost us in the long run. DoD doesn't build to solve its problems for the military. Funds for building and fixing bases were diverted to build the Border Wall.

It is well-known that American citizens despise war and the military whereas other nations with more population see the military as a way out of poverty and a way to be proud and nationalistic. Sure, the PLA soldier may play videogames and not be as disciplined, but they have the numbers and the new equipment that is now "very good enough." They may subsist on rice alone in times of extreme hardship. Russia and China's PR is better than ours when it comes to the military and government, and that doesn't require military parades to show off their equipment. The hype works for China and Russia. They report GOOD military news whereas our media reports BAD military news.

On a caveat, USA restaurants, stores, chains, museums, zoos, and companies are closing and filing bankruptcy due to COVID-19 and lockdown. The USA needs to bail out these companies and restaurants because what would America be if a fast casual restaurant chain closed due to lack of business? Our lifestyle, our fabric of society, our means of happiness are disappearing due to the lack of revenue and customers caused by the pandemic. We cannot have barren towns and cities that resemble Ghost Towns. That in itself is a threat to National Security if American cities become so unattractive to visit because stores and malls are empty and boarded up and no one walks the streets. $2-$3 TRILLION dollars is there, but Congress and the government need to spend it wisely to preserve these American icons. The Unemployment rate means that skilled workers are laid off because their workplace shuttered. It would cost another fortune to remodel an empty store to become another store. The West should not allow foreign businesses that are booming to take over all retail in America and Europe just because of COVID-19 and the rise of Swine Flu again.

Krashnovians at 1:13 PM
Re: Chinese Nuclear Advancements Stoke Pentagon Anxiety

Give technology, industrial base, income by exporting all of it from the U.S.A. just to profit a few, to a country controlled by a belligerent communist regime, and they become a nuclear threat? Wow, imagine that!

Robert Allred at 12:25 PM
Re: Chinese Nuclear Advancements Stoke Pentagon Anxiety

With the nuke arsonal that the US, Russia and China has, once nuke exchange starts, there will be no place to hide for 99% of the world population. And the ones that do survive...what do they wake up to? Not much. Yes, the US has to upgrade their ground based nuke missile systems just to keep up with technology and to ensure that it all still works reliably. This is a deterent. That is all it is. Nobody in their right mind would think of using these weapons except for maybe Rocket man. Last i heard, the US is preparing to build a fleet of B21s and neither of these other 2 countries have this portion of a triad anywhere near this capability to add sweat to our foreheads. In addition, the US has enough nuke muscle power its subs that is equivalent thru agreement with russia but china has a very long long long way to go in this are. The US can overpower both countries (china and russia) with its huge number of state of the art attack subs. The US also is years ahead of both adversaries of fighter jets and stealth technology. The US is also implementing laser gun and rail gun technology that other countries do not have. And now their is a race to implement hypersonic missiles and satelite killers. Its a cat and mouse game. China deals with shear numbers and russia continues to look for money to build out their military. People talk about China have over 350 ships and that their navy is bigger than the US. Yes..they are bigger but you have to look at what kind of ships they are talking about. China has very few nuke powered subs. Most are conventional which would be a turkey shoot for US attack subs. There surface ships..they have a lot of corvettes and patrol boats that are included in their list but the real power is in attack subs, destroyers, cruisers, frigates and carriers. China's and russia's carriers are laughable. Russia almost has no frigates or destroyers but has quite of few subs but mostly from the 80s....and a few old cruisers. China has a lot of frigates but not state of the art. They also have a number of destroyers but have about 6 flavors of them...and many not state of the art. So i would put our navy against theirs any day. As for air power, neither country comes close to what the US has. And the US has no many weapons to mass destroy any army. So i think the US should stop being worried and just continue to build their military and replace old weapons as they have been. Remember that it is those other 2 countries that are trying to catch up with the US....not the other way around.....and i don't see them catching up any time in my life time.

Valentin Prichodko at 10:25 AM
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