05/30/2013 - 16:17

Chinese nuclear forces, 2011

Hans M. Kristensen

Kristensen is the director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in Washington, DC. His work focuses on researching and writing about the status of...

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Robert S. Norris

Norris is a senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, DC. A former senior research...

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Today, China is the only one of five original nuclear weapon states that is increasing its nuclear arsenal. According to some estimates, the country could “more than double” the number of warheads on missiles that could threaten the United States by the mid-2020s. Earlier this year, China published a defense white paper, which repeated its nuclear policies of maintaining a minimum deterrent with a no-first-use pledge. Yet China has yet to define what it means by a minimum deterrent posture. This, together with the fact that it is deploying four new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, invites concern as to the scale and intention of China’s nuclear upgrade. The authors estimate that China has a total inventory of approximately 240 nuclear warheads. Reviewing one of the world’s most opaque nuclear forces, they assess the country’s land-based missiles, submarines and sea-based missiles, and cruise missiles.