China’s modernization of its nuclear arsenal has raised concerns about its potential impact on the United States. Some experts believe that China’s increased nuclear capabilities and improved command and control systems could potentially pose a threat to the US, especially given the current geopolitical tensions between the two nations. China’s development of hypersonic missiles and other advanced technologies has also raised questions about the effectiveness of US missile defense systems. However, others argue that China’s nuclear modernization is primarily focused on regional security and deterrence rather than posing a direct threat to the US.
China’s rise as a nuclear superpower
The Atomic Energy Commission of China was founded by the government in 1955 to coordinate nuclear research and development, marking the official onset of China’s nuclear program. China started working on its nuclear arsenal in the 1960s. After the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France, China became the fifth nuclear power in the world in 1964 with the explosion of its first atomic bomb. The Chinese nuclear weapons program was cloaked in secrecy, and until the 1980s, nothing was known about it.
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With a nuclear arsenal that is thought to have over 300 nuclear warheads, China is currently one of the world’s major nuclear powers. They are stockpiling more of these nuclear warheads constantly. In the past two years, China has erected a large number of missile silos in the desert of the north with this objective in mind. Both China and the US have nuclear warheads. It will be interesting to watch how they perform on land, in the air, and in the water, China is not far behind the US in this regard. By 2035, the Pentagon (United States Department of Defense) predicts that China will have around 1,500 warheads. The US has around 1,550 active nuclear weapons. But the issue is that as China’s nuclear power is being modernized, not only is the number of warheads being increased but also the launching system that deploys them.
The ongoing proliferation of the Chinese nuclear arsenal
The missile DF-41 is China’s crown jewel. The DF-41’s development started in the early 1980s, and later in 2015, it made its maiden appearance at a military parade. The missile is reported to have been put into operation in 2017. This upgrading effort by China has gone so far that the DF-41 missile can now also be launched via mobile devices. Furthermore, China possesses more land-based launchers than the US. The DF-41 missile, with a range of 9300 miles, is capable of carrying ten warheads at once. One of these missiles can penetrate three different targets with nuclear bombs. The total number of DF-41 missiles that China owns has not been made public, however, some estimates put it as high as 200.
China is working on submarine-launched submersible ballistic missiles in addition to land-based nuclear warheads. But, roughly equivalent submarines in China’s existing underwater fleet generate more noise than submarines from the US. China must therefore deal with it severely during the campaign. On the other hand, targets can be struck from a distance of 6480 nautical miles by US Ohio class submarines carrying Trident missiles. China’s existing Jin-class submarines use JL-2 missiles with a range of 3800 nautical miles.
Yet, from China’s borders, this missile is capable of striking the US islands of Alaska or Hawaii. Chinese submarines must travel far into the Pacific Ocean to attack the US mainland. The US has already installed an anti-submarine defense system there, which is alarming for China. The 5400 nautical mile range submersible ballistic missile, however, may alter China’s yet-to-be-developed war policy. China is now keen to develop it and make every effort to achieve this.
Measures taken by the US to stop China’s advancement
China’s accelerating nuclear power development is driving the United States crazy. Despite the country’s warnings, China is always striving to boost its nuclear capacity. The US has also taken steps to counter China’s nuclear modernization, including the development of its hypersonic weapons and the deployment of missile defense systems The US continues to be top-notch in ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile) modernization. The LGM-35A Sentinel is the name given by the US Air Force to its next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile. The US military has revealed the official designation for the country’s upcoming nuclear missile, formerly known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. The Sentinel is slated to replace the five-decade-old Minuteman III starting in 2029, and it would constitute a significant upgrade to the ICBM element of the U.S. nuclear triad at $100 billion.
The US is having trouble dealing with China’s H-20 stealth bomber in the sky. This aircraft, which is not yet in service, seems to have a range of 6200 miles. In contrast, the US intimidated China by displaying the B-21 stealth bomber in December. This is the first time America has deployed long-range nuclear cruise missiles on its stealth aircraft. The other two components of the nuclear triad that have given this cold war a new dimension are submarines and bombers with nuclear weapons, like the B-52 Stratofortress. The US has also increased military cooperation with allies in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan and South Korea, to counter the growing threat posed by China’s nuclear arsenal.
Non-Proliferation Treaty is particularly significant to China
China is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a multilateral agreement that seeks to thwart the spread of nuclear weapons and advance non-military applications of nuclear technology. Nonetheless, China has historically followed a separate nuclear policy and has not participated in any significant arms control agreements with other nuclear countries. There have been requests in recent years for China to participate in arms control deals with other nuclear nations and to take a more active role in international disarmament initiatives. Yet, China has voiced worries about its own security and strategic interests and stated that it would not take part in arms control accords that it considers will jeopardize its security or infringe on its sovereignty.
China’s nuclear modernization has led to concerns about the balance of power between the two countries and is considered a significant challenge for the United States, and it is likely to continue to be a major focus of U.S. strategic planning and defense policy for the foreseeable future. Both countries need to engage in open and transparent dialogue to address their concerns and work towards reducing the risk of nuclear conflict.