Photos show China building over 100 'nuclear' missile silos, US voices concern
China, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its ruling communist party on Thursday amid much military pomp and grandeur, is reportedly constructing more than 100 new 'nuclear' missile silos in a desert area around the western part of the country. Responding to the reports, the United States said that the "dramatic build-up" of Beijing's nuclear arsenal was concerning and called for "practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races -- potentially destabilizing tensions".
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The Washington Post first carried the report with satellite images of around 119 construction sites which mirror China's existing arsenal of nuclear-tipped ballistic missile launch facilities. These photos, obtained and analysed by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, showed that the construction of these missile silos is already underway at several sites in the desert spanning hundreds of square miles in China's Gansu province.
Taking note of the reports, US state department spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington considers this buildup "concerning" and questioned the intent of the People's Republic of China (PRC). "These reports and other developments suggest that the PRC's nuclear arsenal will grow more quickly, and to a higher level than perhaps previously anticipated," Price said while addressing a regular news briefing.
Highlighting that the US government is trying to engage other nuclear powers, including Russia, in an agreement prioritising strategic stability, he said that the same rationale also applies to China.
Beijing, on the other hand, has insisted that its military or nuclear arsenal is insignificant compared to that of the United States or Russia and has called for bilateral dialogues on strategic security that respect "equality".
Notably, the Pentagon had estimated last year that China's nuclear warhead stockpile was somewhere in "the low 200s" and could double in size with the country's recent push to develop fuel for a new generation of nuclear reactors. The US stockpile of nuclear weapons, in contrast, consisted of around 3,800 warheads, of which 1,357 have already been deployed, a factsheet issued by the US state department stated.