Report: China’s Nuclear Arsenal Expanding Rapidly

The development comes as NATO member states consider placing more nuclear arms on standby

According to a recent annual report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China has been rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, adding 90 warheads since January 2023. This rate of growth surpasses that of any other nation. However, it’s worth noting that other nuclear-armed countries have also been modernizing their weapons and increasing their operational nuclear warhead numbers.

The SIPRI report, released on Sunday, highlights the US and Russia as the world’s largest nuclear powers, possessing nearly 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Despite this, China’s nuclear arsenal is expanding at a faster pace than any other country, according to Hans M. Kristensen, associate senior fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program. SIPRI estimates that China’s nuclear arsenal increased from 410 to 500 warheads between January 2023 and January 2024.

A separate report from the US Department of Defense in October 2023 concluded that China possessed over 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023. This number is on track to exceed earlier projections, with the Pentagon predicting it will surpass 1,000 by 2030.

The SIPRI report claims that for the first time, China may be deploying a small number of warheads on missiles during peacetime. While China allegedly has 24 nuclear warheads on high operational alert, this number is dwarfed by the US and Russia, which each have over 1,700.

The report forecasts that by the end of the decade, China could potentially have as many intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as either Russia or the USA, though its stockpile of nuclear warheads is still expected to remain smaller than either of those two countries.

In an interview with The Telegraph on Sunday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg revealed that member states are discussing removing more nuclear-capable missiles from storage and placing them on standby. He cited perceived threats from Russia and China, asserting the need for the US-led military bloc to send a clear message about its own nuclear capabilities to Moscow and Beijing.