US: China Building More Nuclear Silos 07/30 06:20
The U.S. military is warning about what analysts have described as a major
expansion of China's nuclear missile silo fields at a time of heightened
tension between Beijing and Washington.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- The U.S. military is warning about what analysts have
described as a major expansion of China's nuclear missile silo fields at a time
of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington.
Researchers at the Federation of American Scientists estimate that China has
approximately 250 underground missile silos under construction after they used
satellite imagery to identify a new field being built in western China.
U.S. Strategic Command tweeted a link Wednesday to a story in The New York
Times on the federation's findings, which were published this week.
"The public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the
growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it," said
Strategic Command, which oversees America's nuclear arsenal.
The field in the Xinjiang region is the second one reported this summer. In
June, researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in
California identified another field under construction in neighboring Gansu
China has not commented on the reports. Asked about the latest one, the
Foreign Ministry said Friday that it was not aware of the situation.
The reports come at a time when relations between the U.S. and China have
plunged to their worst level in decades. The two nations remain sharply at odds
over a range of issues, including trade, technology, cybersecurity, human
rights and China's increasingly assertive foreign policy under President Xi
The expansion of China's nuclear force would likely factor into any U.S.
calculations for potential military confrontations over flashpoints such as
Taiwan or the South China Sea.
The outspoken editor of the state-owned Global Times newspaper said this
week that U.S. institutions and the media are hyping the reports about the
missile fields to pressure China, but that the nation shouldn't be cowed.
"Look at what American politicians are saying about China and look at the
provocative actions of their warplanes and warships near China," Hu Xijin said.
"China must fully step up construction of its military force and nuclear
deterrence as the cornerstone of its national security."
Both sites are around 800 square kilometers (300 square miles). Ground-based
silos can house intercontinental ballistic missiles. Spreading the silos across
such a wide area makes targeting the field much more complicated. Analysts say
some of the silos may serve as decoys as well.
"The Chinese missile silo program constitutes the most extensive silo
construction since the U.S. and Soviet missile silo construction during the
Cold War," researchers Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen wrote in the Federation
of American Scientists report.
Kuo Yu-jen, a defense studies expert at the Institute for National Policy
Research in Taiwan, said it's very difficult to get an accurate count of the
underground silos of any country, but that the recently released satellite
imagery looks "very, very similar" to missile silos.
He characterized the findings as a warning by the U.S. to others that China,
in developing its nuclear weapon capabilities, is violating an international
consensus geared toward nuclear disarmament.
"It's also to let Russia know. China, if it increases its number of
missiles, it threatens not only the U.S., but also Russia and Europe," said
Kuo, the director at the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan.
The U.S. and Russia, who have the world's largest nuclear arsenals, held
inconclusive talks this week in Geneva in a bid to avoid a new nuclear arms
China's nuclear arsenal is estimated by the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute at 350 warheads, while the United States or Russia each has
about 6,000. The Pentagon says China will at least double the size of its
arsenal in 10 years.
The recent research follows a finding by Kristensen in February of
construction of 11 underground silos at a vast missile training range near
Jilantai in north-central China.