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Russia, China pose increasing threats, officials say

Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, discusses threats to the U.S. from China and Russia and the Defense Department's steps at providing a credible deterrent at a Senate Armed Services Committee budget hearing Tuesday. Photo by EJ Hersom/Department of Defense
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, discusses threats to the U.S. from China and Russia and the Defense Department's steps at providing a credible deterrent at a Senate Armed Services Committee budget hearing Tuesday. Photo by EJ Hersom/Department of Defense

April 20 (UPI) -- Defense officials told lawmakers Tuesday that China and Russia are both working to increase their nuclear capabilities -- and are increasing threats in space.

"For the first time in our history, the nation is facing two nuclear-capable strategic peer adversaries at the same time," Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a budget hearing, according to a Pentagon press release.

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Stratcom maintains the United States' nuclear triad: strategic bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

China, according to Richard, is on pace to double its nuclear weapons stockpile by the end of the decade and can mount its ICBMs on trucks so their location can be concealed -- and Russia is working rapidly to modernize its conventional and nuclear capability.

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"Sustainment and modernization of our nuclear forces, weapons complex, and requisite NC3 capabilities has transitioned from something we should do, to something we must do," Richard said in his opening statement.

Army Gen. James H. Dickinson, the commander of U.S. Space Command, testified on the two countries' space enterprises.

According to Dickinson, both countries' militaries "actively integrate advanced space and counterspace technologies into multi-domain warfighting strategies to challenge U.S. regional superiority, position themselves as space powers, and create improved balance of power dynamics in their near abroad," Dickinson said.

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"Today, space is a warfighting domain not because we desired it to be; it is a warfighting domain because our competitors made it so," Dickinson told the committee.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration would seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Earlier this month the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report saying the United States faces a "diverse array of threats," particularly from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, amid disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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