Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does China have?
China is continuing the nuclear weapons modernization program it initiated in the 1980s, fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than before. Since our previous Nuclear Notebook on China in July 2016, the country has continued fielding a new version of an existing nuclear medium-range mobile ballistic missile, a new dual-capable intermediate-range mobile ballistic missile, and an improved road-mobile launcher for an existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It has also continued development of a road-mobile ICBM, and might be developing an air-launched dual-capable ballistic missile.
Although there is no sign that the Chinese government has officially diverted from its traditional nuclear policy – a pledge not to use nuclear weapons first, not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries or in nuclear-weapon-free zones, and to maintain only a minimum deterrent designed to ensure a survivable second-strike capability – its modernization program is adding significant new capabilities. These qualitative improvements may in turn influence Chinese nuclear policy and strategy.
We estimate that China has a stockpile of approximately 280 nuclear warheads for delivery by 120 to 130 land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers…
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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.
Publication Name: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
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