Beijing/Washington: As the United States and Russia push for an extension of the agreement for limiting the number of nuclear weapons, China is moving fast to expand the scope of its nuclear force. China has set up 16 underground silos for testing nuclear weapons in the province of Inner Mongolia. Hans Kristensen, an analyst with the think tank Federation of American Scientists, reported the information.
Over the past decade, China’s ruling Communist regime has been moving swiftly to be on par with the United States and fulfil its ambition to become a world superpower. For that, China has stepped up efforts to increase its economic, technical and military capabilities and its moves for nuclear readiness is considered a part of the strategy. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, China is expanding its defence capabilities as other countries are engaged in combating the virus. Besides, China’s efforts towards its nuclear arsenal and claims regarding it only confirm the reports.
Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, drew attention to China’s nuclear arsenal in his article. China has begun building 16 underground silos to test nuclear weapons near Jilantai city in Inner Mongolia. Of these, work on 11 silos started just a year ago, and satellite photographs reveal that their construction is ongoing on a war-footing, Kristensen said.
Kristensen went on to claim that the silos may have been constructed for China’s newly developed nuclear weapon, the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). China unveiled the nuclear weapon to the world during its military parade in 2019. The ICBM has a range of 14,000 to 15,000 kilometres and can attain a speed of Mach 25, i.e. 25 times the speed of sound. The US expert believes that the new silos in Inner Mongolia indicate that China is preparing to increase its nuclear arsenal.
China currently has between 200 and 300 nuclear weapons. However, China has never officially released its number. Likewise, China is not known for being transparent about its military capabilities. The analyst, therefore, highlighted that the number of nuclear weapons China has could be far higher than what it has disclosed. Last year, an article in The Global Times, China’s government mouthpiece, demanded China expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1000 at least to curb US strategic ambitions.
Later, a report the Pentagon released stated that China is ramping up its efforts to acquire nuclear triad capability, which the United States and Russia possessed. It also warned that China’s stockpile of nuclear weapons would more than double in the next decade. In November 2020, China was reported to have secretly begun large-scale production of uranium and plutonium, required for its nuclear weapons, in three of its facilities.