November 11, 2013
Credit: Chinese Internet
China's nuclear forces are fuel for controversy. Beijing is modernizing two legs of its nuclear triad—land- and sea-based ballistic missiles—with new weapons built and stored underground. It is also moving to solid-fueled weapons that can be launched in minutes from liquid-fueled missiles and to mobile land-based missiles from silos. More of these missiles will have the ability to reach the U.S. In addition, China is modernizing its nuclear warheads, despite having ceased explosive nuclear tests in 1996.
But China's nuclear forces, controlled by the Second Artillery Corps of the People's Liberation Army, still number slightly under 200 armed missiles, much less than the U.S. or Russia. Though it is the only one of the five nuclear-weapons state signatories to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that is expanding its arsenal, there is no evidence to suggest it is building, or has built, hundreds or thousands of new nuclear warheads, despite claims by some Western observers. Evidence does suggest, however, that China's nuclear forces remain focused on ensuring a nuclear deterrent through the ability to deliver a devastating second strike against enemy cities.