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The report builds on the military’s warning last year that China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than US officials had predicted, highlighting a broad and accelerating buildup of military muscle designed to enable Beijing to match or surpass American global power by mid-century.
Last year, the Pentagon said the number of Chinese nuclear warheads could increase to 700 within six years and may top 1000 by 2030.
The new report says China currently has about 400 nuclear warheads, and that number could grow to 1500 by 2035.
The US, by comparison, has 3750 active nuclear warheads.
Beijing’s growing arsenal is creating uncertainty for the US as it navigates how to deter two nuclear powers, Russia and China, simultaneously, the Pentagon said in its recent nuclear posture review.
Its release also comes just two weeks after US President Joe Biden met with China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, their first in-person meeting since Biden became president in January 2021.
During their nearly three-hour session, Biden objected directly to China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions” toward Taiwan, but also said the US is not looking for conflict with the communist power.
However, China considers Taiwan to be a “red line,” Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in Cambodia last week, according to a statement provided by the Chinese Ministry of Defence.
Beijing has vowed to bring the self-governing island of Taiwan under its control, by force if necessary.
Xi has given his military until 2027 to develop the military capability to retake the self-ruled island democracy that the Communist Party claims as its own territory.
In other news, Moscow has postponed a round of nuclear arms control talks with the United States set for this week because of stark differences in approach and tensions over Ukraine, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the decision to put off the talks that were scheduled to start in Cairo this week was made at the political level.
The postponement marked another low point in badly strained US-Russian relations and raised concerns about the future of the last remaining nuclear arms control pact between the two powers.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Richard Marles has given an update on the AUKUS pact and confirmed a large component of Australia’s nuclear submarines will be built onshore.
Under the AUKUS defence pact, the Royal Australian Navy will acquire nuclear-powered submarines by accessing US and British technology.
Marles yesterday launched the Maximising Australia’s AUKUS Opportunity report and flagged Australian workers would play a significant role in building the vessels.
“It will give rise to an enormous national endeavour as we develop the capacity in this country to build a nuclear-powered submarine,” Marles said.
He also said Royal Australian Navy sailors will begin training on US and British nuclear submarines “very soon”.
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