US calls report of China building more than 100 nuclear missile silos 'concerning'
The Washington Post, citing a study of commercial satellite images by a California-based group, reported on Thursday that the silos were being built in a desert near the northwestern city of Yumen
The United States has said China's rapid build-up of its nuclear forces was concerning and called on Beijing to engage with it "on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilising arms races."
The Washington Post, citing a study of commercial satellite images by a California-based group, reported on Thursday that the silos were being built in a desert near the northwestern city of Yumen.
The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey said the 119 construction sites in Gansu province were similar to existing Chinese launch facilities for nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
The build-up had become more difficult for China to hide and it appeared it was deviating from decades of nuclear strategy based around minimal deterrence, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told a regular news briefing.
"I think what is fair to say is that these reports and other developments suggest that the PRC's (People's Republic of China) nuclear arsenal will grow more quickly, and to a higher level, than perhaps previously anticipated," he said.
"This buildup, it is concerning," Price said. "It raises questions about the PRC's intent.
"And for us it reinforces the importance of pursuing practical measures to reduce nuclear risks," he added.
"Despite what appears to be PRC obfuscation, this rapid buildup has become more difficult to hide," Price said. "And it highlights how the PRC appears again to be deviating from decades of nuclear strategy based around minimum deterrence."
Price was also asked whether the United States had a reaction to bellicose remarks by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi, in a speech at centenary celebrations for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said "the Chinese people will never allow any foreign forces to bully, oppress, or enslave us."
"Whoever wants to do so will face bloodshed in front of a Great Wall of steel built by more than 1.4 billion Chinese people," he said.
Price said the State Department had "taken note" of Xi's remarks "but we're not going to comment on the specifics."
"I think this administration over the course of several months has been very clear about our impressions of the CCP, in general, but I don't have a specific response for you on President Xi's remarks today," he said.
In a 2020 report to Congress, the Pentagon estimated China’s nuclear warhead stockpile in "the low 200s" and said it was projected to at least double in size as Beijing expands and modernises its forces. Analysts say the United States has around 3,800 warheads, and according to a State Department factsheet, 1,357 of those were deployed as of March 1.
Washington has repeatedly called on China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty and the US disarmament ambassador said in May that Beijing was resisting this despite a "dramatic" buildup in its arsenal.
Beijing says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia and it is ready to conduct bilateral dialogues on strategic security "on the basis of equality and mutual respect."
Non-proliferation experts said this year China's push to develop fuel for a new generation of nuclear power reactors will produce large amounts of materials that could be diverted to making nuclear weapons.
(With inputs from agencies)