China is intent on doubling the size of its nuclear arsenal by the end of this decade, U.S. military officials say.
“These initiatives increase China’s ability to project power further from their mainland and support their aspirations to impose China’s will throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 13.
“Competitors, such as China and Russia, are developing advanced capabilities to directly challenge our strengths across all domains,” Richard said, singling out Beijing for its large-scale nuclear force modernization.
Adm. Richard also questioned Beijing’s declared “no first use” nuclear policy — the assertion that the PLA will not be the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict.
Chinese secrecy regarding its nuclear buildup and the expansion of the overall nuclear arsenal “bring [China‘s] motives and intent into question,” he said.
China, Adm. Richard said, is building a range of nuclear forces — missiles, missile submarines and bombers — designed to deny foreign regional forces access to conduct operations in the Indo-Pacific region.
“The PLA’s Air Force (PLAAF) newly reassigned nuclear mission, and a deployment of a strategic bomber would provide China with its first credible nuclear triad,” the four-star admiral said.