he Department of Defense is warning of the “growing threat the world faces” from China’s seemingly expanding nuclear arsenal after U.S.-based researchers discovered its vast new missile fields in July.
Nuclear arms analysts combing through satellite images of the desert plains in northwestern China have now found what they believe are 230 silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch sites in Yumen, Gansu, and Hami, Xinjiang, respectively.
The Chinese government has not signed on to arms control treaties like New START, despite the wishes of co-signatories the U.S. and Russia. Beijing says it plans to keep its nuclear arsenal at a “minimum level,” but the buildup of its silos deep inland—beyond the reach of most conventional weapons—has experts questioning China’s stated commitments.
ndependent researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in California and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in Washington, D.C., published their respective discoveries just weeks apart on July 1 and 27.
Responding to the reports, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) tweeted on Tuesday that the public had now “discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it.”
The Pentagon typically does not comment on the intelligence it has gathered or provide details of its assessments, but the Twitter post appeared to confirm what the State Department has termed a “concerning” development.
Commenting on the earlier discovery of 119 under-construction nuclear silos in Yumen—made by Decker Eveleth and Jeffrey Lewis of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program (EANP) at CNS—State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing: “These reports and other developments suggest that the PRC’s nuclear arsenal will grow more quickly, and to a higher level than perhaps previously anticipated.”
“It raises questions about the PRC’s intent. And for us, it reinforces the importance of pursuing practical measures to reduce nuclear risks. We encourage Beijing to engage with us on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races—potentially destabilizing tensions,” he added.