China’s nuclear weapons stock is growing at a faster rate than expected, according to the Pentagon, reaching 400 nuclear warheads at a pace that could surpass 1,500 by 2035. File Photo by Wu Hong/EPA-EFE
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- China's nuclear weapons stock is growing at a faster rate than expected according to the Pentagon.
The Department of Defense estimates China could have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, a date the People's Liberation Army targets for "complete modernization" of its national defenses. The country has stockpiled 400 nuclear warheads so far, surpassing the "low-200s" projection the department made in 2020.
"Regardless of the ultimate number of nuclear weapons it makes, the [People's Republic of China] will probably continue to claim it is, like other nuclear powers, adhering to the minimum of nuclear weapons needed to protect its security interests," a report from the Department of Defense said.
The report, which is 196 pages long, details China's economic, military and energy strategies and goals. Its overall goal is "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" by 2049. The Pentagon believes China views the United States as a rival and an obstacle in its path, " deploying a whole-of-government effort meant to contain the PRC's rise."
"We see, I think, a set of capabilities taking shape and new numbers in terms of what they're looking to pursue that raise some questions about what their intent will be in the longer term," a senior defense official said in a press briefing Tuesday, according to CNN.
In 2021, the PLA Rocket Force performed 135 ballistic missile tests. It continued development on three solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile silo fields, which will be home to 300 missile silos.
The Chinese army has the third largest air force in the world with 2,800 total aircraft. Of those aircraft, 2,250 are combat aircraft, which includes bombers.
"The PLAAF is rapidly catching up to Western air forces and continues to modernize with the delivery of domestically built aircraft and a wide range of UAVs," the report said.
The army of China is made up of nearly 1 million soldiers.
China has become more aggressive as it pursues unification with Taiwan as well. In 2021, it applied economic pressure to the legally sovereign island nation, while flexing its military muscle with increased flyovers in its airspace. Meanwhile China portrays itself as a proponent of the peaceful unification of its neighbor to the southeast.
During U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August, China conducted nearby combat exercises and hit the country with a series of sanctions. Sanctions included restricting imports and exports. China has also restricted Taiwan from joining international organizations, politically isolating it from the world.
"Today, our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear: We will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we're proud of our enduring friendship," Rep. Pelosi said.