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Pentagon report: China seeks to double number of nuclear warheads

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia speaks at an American Enterprise Institute webinar, "Assessing China's military: An inside look at the Department of Defense's China Military Power Report," the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DoD
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia speaks at an American Enterprise Institute webinar, "Assessing China's military: An inside look at the Department of Defense's China Military Power Report," the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DoD

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- China plans to double its stockpile of nuclear warheads within the next decade, but its nuclear force would still be a fraction of that of the United States, says a Pentagon report released Tuesday.

In its annual report to Congress on military and security developments in China, the Pentagon said Beijing is working to develop a more assertive position and match or surpass the United States as the dominant power in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Part of that strategy is a plan to modernize and expand its nuclear forces, the report said.

The Pentagon estimates that China's stockpile of nuclear warheads is in the low 200s -- compared to 3,800 American warheads in active status and others in reserve.

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The release of this year's report, which provides a study of the Chinese armed forces through the end of 2019, marked the first time the Department of Defense has revealed the number of nuclear weapons it believes China possesses.

The Pentagon expects that the expansion of China's arsenal will include developing more sophisticated nuclear weapons, as well as modernizing launching methods to include submarines and bombers.

"The Communist Party has spent the last several years completely tearing out and rewiring the [People's Liberation Army] organizationally with the goal of transforming into a joint force that is more combat ready, innovative and global," said Chad Sbragia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China at an American Enterprise Institute event Tuesday.

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The United States has been pressuring China to engage in trilateral arms talks with Russia, issuing an invitation in July to engage in arms talks in Vienna.

At that time a Chinese diplomat said the country would only participate in the talks if the United States agreed to reduce its nuclear arsenal.

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