China’s nuclear construction increases the risk of conflict in Asia

This is already a dangerous match: China and the United States have each invested hundreds of billions of dollars in missiles, submarines, fighter jets, and ships to compete for dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

That game may now go nuclear.

Pentagon report Estimates released this month indicate that China may have 700 nuclear warheads by 2027 and 1,000 by 2030-compared with last year’s estimate, China’s 200 or so nuclear warheads will only double in the next ten years .

The Pentagon pointed out that China’s nuclear delivery platform and supporting infrastructure indicate that it may already have a “nuclear trinity” capable of launching missiles from the air, ground, and sea. It said that China may also be moving towards an “early warning” posture, which means that it will prepare to launch missiles in response to direct threats, similar to the “high alert” posture adopted by the United States and Russia. It has existed since the Cold War.

The sudden build-up of nuclear forces shows that China’s strategy may shift from the traditional “minimum deterrence” stance to tactically preparing for war.

This transition comes at a time when tensions between Beijing and Washington are intensifying, as China recently reported tests of hypersonic missiles and more aggressive actions in the South China Sea and Taiwan.President Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping Three-hour summit This week I hope to ease the hostility and suspicion between the two countries.

China Dongfeng 41 intercontinental ballistic missile formation

At the military parade held in Tiananmen Square, China’s DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile can be seen

(Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asian Program at the German Marshall Foundation in the United States, said that abandoning minimum deterrence would be “completely contrary to everything I have read or discussed with the Chinese about how they view nuclear weapons.” “When we make mistakes, the United States and its intelligence services are always worried. We obviously got this nuclear component wrong.”

The build-up in Beijing is intensifying the dangerous arms race across the Indo-Pacific region. Experts say that this is a setback for nuclear non-proliferation, which has regressed over the past decade and has increased the risk of conflict.

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Program of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), said: “In general, there will be more nuclear weapons on high alert, ready to be launched.”

Christensen is one of several independent experts Satellite image Earlier this year, China was building at least three new nuclear missile silos in the deserts of Xinjiang, Gansu and Inner Mongolia. Christensen wrote in his analysis that this silo construction is “the most significant expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal in history.”

It is not clear how China will operate the new silos or how many warheads each missile will carry. According to the FAA, despite the progress, China still lags far behind the United States and Russia, which have about 4,000 warheads, accounting for 91% of all nuclear warheads.

Nevertheless, experts say that the unexpected growth of China’s nuclear arsenal is worrying.

“People are nervous because they don’t really understand what Xi Jinping’s ending is, what his strategy is, and how we can develop some understanding or risk reduction measures to avoid conflict,” Glaser said. “And we know that when a crisis occurs, the Chinese do not answer the phone.”

Analysts say that as the United States strengthens its security alliances around the world, China may have designed its expanding nuclear capabilities to protect itself. Beijing may still see its expansion as the “minimum” necessary to keep up with the American threat.

“The sense of urgency of senior leadership is getting stronger,” said Zhao Tong, a senior researcher at the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. “Chinese leaders may worry that the United States is launching a full-scale campaign to destabilize China. To counter this apparent political hostility, China needs a stronger deterrent.”

Nuclear construction may be an extension of Xi Jinping’s vision of a “strong army”-in short, a big country should have a strong army. Since taking office in 2012, he has reorganized the Chinese army and set the 2035 and 2049 deadlines for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to become a modern and then “world-class” army. According to the Pentagon report, China has approximately 975,000 active personnel; its navy has 355 ships and submarines, which is the world’s largest, if not the most powerful, fleet.

If China invades Taiwan, China’s expanded nuclear capabilities will be seen as a deterrent against intervention by the United States and its allies, and Taiwan is seen as a divided province by Beijing. Taiwan’s defense minister said last month that the military tensions between Taiwan and China are at “the worst level in 40 years.”

According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, Beijing flew 150 military aircraft over the Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone in five days in October. As Taiwan builds stronger relations with other countries, welcomes a delegation of European and American parliamentarians to visit the island and acknowledges that the US military is training Taiwanese soldiers, and these invasions have escalated.

Philip Davidson, commander of the US Navy Indo-Pacific Command, warned in March that China might attack Taiwan “in the next six years” because of its rapid military expansion.

The big screen shows President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the virtual summit

On November 16, 2021, in the evening news outside a shopping mall in Beijing, the big screen shows the virtual summit of President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(Kevin Frere/Getty Images)

Xi Jinping told Biden at their summit on Tuesday that China prefers “peaceful reunification” and does not seek conflict with the United States-but warned that “Taiwan independence separatist forces” and the Americans who helped them are “playing with fire.” He said that if they cross the red line, China will take “decisive measures.”

Some analysts believe that China can play the “cannonball game” with new nuclear silos. In this type of silos, it has built many nuclear silos but only equipped with a dozen or two nuclear silos. Christensen said that with so much construction, this seems unlikely. “When countries build such a large number of facilities, they tend to fill up these facilities.”

According to reports, China’s military modernization this year has received attention again. According to reports, it tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that was launched into orbit by a rocket and then separated to slide towards the target. Its flight speed was five times the speed of sound. . Hypersonic missiles have a lower trajectory than traditional ballistic missiles and can evade radar missile detection systems.

General Mark A. Milli, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the hypersonic missile test “very worrying” and “very close” to the “satellite moment.” The United States is also studying hypersonic weapons, but the Pentagon has not yet revealed whether China is leading in this technology.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies the test firing of hypersonic missiles. The ministry has neither confirmed nor denied reports of the country’s overall nuclear expansion.

China leads the United States in long-range missiles, partly because of a Cold War-era agreement called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which restricted the United States and Russia from having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. In recent years, China has deployed thousands of such missiles and installed them on warships and aircraft as part of its strategic defense against potential US naval attacks.

Last week, the satellite company Maxar Technologies Posted pictures Shows that China has built models of US Navy aircraft carriers and destroyers in the Xinjiang desert. The US Naval Research Institute stated that these models are likely to be used by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for target practice.

The United States withdrew from the INF under the leadership of the Trump administration in 2019, and is now investing heavily in missile development to specifically catch up with China. The United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III called the United States “first.” 1 Pacing challenge. “

These technologies will take several years to build. At the same time, the United States and China are in what analysts call a “dangerous decade,” and China may see that the window of opportunity to seize Taiwan while possessing regional military superiority is shrinking.

The Biden administration tried to restore the alliance with the United States as a way to counter China’s growing military power. The “quartet” of the United States, India, Australia and Japan pledged to protect the “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, while the new AUKUS security agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia promised to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

“The idea is to send a signal to China that the international community should enjoy peace and stability. If you use force, they will not stand by,” said Glaser of the German Marshall Foundation. “The world will oppose you. You will pay too high a price.”‘

Biden’s efforts have also caused anxiety in Beijing.

“The recent AUKUS transaction has sounded the alarm. This may make Beijing worry that time is not necessarily on China’s side,” Zhao said. “China may not be able to continue to accumulate military superiority. Therefore, if it is worried that the window is closing, Beijing may think it is forced to do something… The risk of military conflict is very serious.”

The Biden-Xi summit aims to ease diplomatic tensions and prevent accidental conflicts.Unlike the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which were basically isolated from each other, China and the United States were connected through economic and global interests. Tackling climate change. Military confrontation is not in the interests of either party.

Preliminary news after the summit indicated that neither side’s views have changed and there is no intention to relax the armament buildup. But on Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan told the audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington that Biden and Xi Jinping have agreed to discuss “strategic stability” around the nuclear issue. He did not specify the timetable or format of the talks.

Zhao said that when the friction between Beijing and Washington is fundamentally ideological, it is unlikely that Beijing and Washington will build trust. “If they can’t have honest and candid discussions about the existence of basic universal values ​​and other issues, I don’t see how they can ease ideological confrontation and resolve tensions.”

Some analysts refuted the claim that China and the United States are sliding into the Cold War. But Christensen saw the similarities. One side accelerates, the other reacts, “Suddenly, you are in this dynamic, and everyone is reacting to each other,” he said. “There seems to be no overall political plan. This is where we are now again.”

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