OPINION / VIEWPOINT
Pentagon report aims to suppress China's nuclear deterrence
Pentagon report aims to suppress China’s nuclear deterrence
Published: Sep 02, 2020 06:37 PM Updated: Sep 02, 2020 08:33 PM

A formation of Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles takes part in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, capital of China, October 1, 2019. Photo: Xinhua


In its newly released 2020 Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, the US Department of Defense unprecedentedly put a number to China's nuclear warheads. It says China currently maintains an operational nuclear warhead stockpile in the low 200s and the figure is projected to at least double over the next decade.

I think the estimation of "low 200s" underestimates the number of nuclear warheads in China. The use of "operational" leaves room for making the figure smaller. The public generally cannot distinguish operational warheads and inactive ones. Generally speaking, as the US and Russia have large nuclear arsenals, some of their nuclear warheads are categorized as non-operational status. Countries with fewer nuclear warheads will have a lower rate of inactive warheads. They will keep most of their nuclear warheads on active status. If tensions occur, inactive warheads, if they have, will be activated. 

The international estimation put the number of China's nuclear warheads at over 200 in the 1980s. China has never verified it. As for how long China can double the figure, 10 years is obviously not the shortest time. The time span depends on the extent of US threats to China's security. In other words, it depends on the urgency for China to strengthen its nuclear power. 

I think the latest Pentagon report deliberately underestimates China's nuclear warhead stockpile while it emphasizes China's strategic intention to expand its nuclear arsenal. Its purpose, first of all, is to weaken China's nuclear deterrence, especially the role of China's nuclear capability in shaping the US society's attitude toward China. Second, it aims at leading the international community to believe the number of China's nuclear warheads is in low 200s. This is done so that it can use the figure as the base to pressure China's nuclear disarmament with the US and Russia and to suppress the room for China's nuclear capability development. 

The Pentagon's annual report on China's military development has always promoted so called Chinese military threats. This time is no exception. But the latest one has a conspiracy to suppress China's nuclear deterrence. Chinese must see through this. 

The author is editor-in-chief of the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn 


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