CHINA will double its number of city-destroying nuclear warheads in a bid to become a top military power by 2049, the US has warned.
The Pentagon says Beijing's nuke stockpile is currently in the low 200s, although the Federation of American Scientists estimates the figure to be as high as 320.
In its annual report to Congress, the US Department of Defence said the Communist Party is nearing the ability to launch nuclear strikes by land, air and sea, a capacity known as a 'triad'.
This comes as Washington seeks to have Beijing join a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia.
The Pentagon said the growth projection was based on factors including Beijing having enough material to double its nuclear weapons stockpile without new fissile material production.
In their report, American defence chiefs claim China will at least double their nuclear stockpile over the next 10 years in a bid to become a leading military power by 2049.
They wrote: “It is likely that Beijing will seek to develop a military by mid-century that is equal to – or in some cases superior to – the US military, or that of any other great power that the PRC (People's Republic of China) views as a threat."
If America fails to address this it “will have serious implications for US national interests and the security of the international rules-based order," the report says.
Earlier this year, state-backed newspaper Global Times said Beijing needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time.
China today rejected the Pentagon's findings.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the report is full of biases and deliberately distorts China's strategic intentions.
China's defense ministry said the report is "full of the cold war mentality of a zero-sum game," is a smear on the country and provokes animosity between the mainland and Taiwan.
The US says China is also nearing completion of its nuclear triad capacity with Beijing developing a nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missile.
Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China.
The report said that in October 2019 China publicly revealed the H-6N bomber as its first nuclear-capable air-to-air refuelling bomber.
'COLD WAR MENTALITY'
Washington has repeatedly called for the Asian superpower to join in trilateral negotiations to extend New START, a US-Russian nuclear arms treaty that is due to expire in February.
China has said it has no interest in joining the negotiations, given that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is about 20 times the size of China's.
Washington currently has over 6,000 nuclear warheads – a similar figure to Moscow's mammoth stockpile.
In July, a senior diplomat said Beijing would "be happy to" participate in trilateral arms control negotiations, but only if the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China's level.
TOP MILITARY POWER
The report noted that China already has the world’s largest navy, with 350 submarines and ships compared to 293 for the US Navy.
Tensions have been simmering between China and the United States for months.
Washington has taken issue with China's handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and moves to curb freedoms in Hong Kong.
The increasingly aggressive posture comes as US President Donald Trump vies for re-election on November 3.
Another source of tension has been Taiwan.
China has stepped up its military activity around the democratic island, which Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory, sending fighter jets and warships on exercises close to Taiwan.
The Pentagon report, based on 2019 information, said China's military continued to "enhance its readiness" to prevent Taiwan's independence and carry out an invasion if needed.
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