A new report from the Pentagon suggests the US vastly underestimated China's nuclear intentions, more than doubling its 2030 nuclear weapons estimate.
It comes as nonpartisan policy think tank the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) further analysed China's growing number of what is believed to be ballistic missile silo fields for nuclear weapon storage as fresh satellite images show extensive progress in their construction.
The FAS report called the rapid growth "an unprecedented nuclear build up" that "raises questions and uncertainty about China’s minimum nuclear deterrent and policies".
Report co-author Hans M. Kristensen noted the rapid pace of expansion, telling CNN China has clearly decided to go "big" on military.
"[It] reduces the vulnerability that anyone can knock them out in a surprise attack," he said.
The Pentagon report reveals Washington now believes China could have up to 1000 nuclear weapons by 2030, a significant rise from the 400 it predicted last year.
"Over the next decade, the PRC aims to modernise, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces," the report said, referring to the People's Republic of China.
While the predicted numbers do not exceed the US's nuclear stockpile, there is concern in the US of China's reluctance to join a new arms control treaty despite China's insistence on regional peace.
China again warns Australia over nuclear deal
Beijing's recent nuclear commentary has focused on the AUKUS deal which will see nuclear-powered submarines added to Australia's arsenal. It has stressed the move will allow Australia to acquire nuclear weapons and will only materialise into an arms race.
In yet another warning, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Thursday hit out at Canberra and urged the Morrison government to "abandon the Cold War mentality".
Pressed on his department's thoughts on the Morrison-Macron fallout, he said the sub deal had far greater consequences than just a "diplomatic spat".
"It is extremely irresponsible for the Australian government to ignore its international nuclear non-proliferation obligations and the serious concerns of regional countries and the international community in pursuit of its own interests," Mr Wang said.
In response to the Pentagon report, Mr Wang said it was "filled with bias" while again pointing to the US' AUKUS "clique" and the US's own extensive nuclear stockpile.
The Pentagon report also renewed concerns about China's increasingly muscular military and its development of options to take Taiwan, one of several scenarios the US military cautioned Beijing could pursue.
On the long list of potential Taiwan scenarios outlined in a press briefing, a senior US official cited the possibility that China could work on options for everything from a joint blockade campaign against Taiwan to a full-scale amphibious invasion.
It could carry out air and missile strikes or cyber attacks. China could also potentially seize offshore islands. The official declined to say which one of these contingencies was most likely or if any were likely at all.
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