Why Arms Control With China Is a Must

 In China, CIS, FVEY, P5, Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste

The United States and the world must exert all avail­able polit­i­cal, mil­i­tary, eco­nom­ic, and diplo­mat­ic pres­sure to get China to sign the next iter­a­tion of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) or other arms con­trol mea­sures. China remains the largest nuclear power with­out any degree of trans­paren­cy or treaty-imposed lim­i­ta­tions.

The START agree­ment signed a decade ago between the United States and Russia will expire in February, and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion wants China to sign.

President Trump advocated the inclu­sion of China in a nuclear agree­ment during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May and again in July. The president’s top nuclear nego­tia­tor Ambassador Marshall Billingslea pressed Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to exert pres­sure on China to join the next arms-con­trol treaty.

China remained a big player in the global nuclear com­pe­ti­tion a decade ago com­pared with the United States and Russia. That’s about to change.

China plans to double its nuclear arse­nal in the next decade, the Pentagon’s 2020 report on Chinese mil­i­tary power said. That would mean an increase from the rumored approx­i­mate­ly 200 – 300 nuclear weapons to 500 – 600 nuclear weapons. China’s exact number of nuclear weapons is secret due to the Middle Kingdom’s lack of trans­paren­cy.

The editor-in-chief of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) con­trolled tabloid, The Global Times, ran an offi­cial op-ed in May advocating for an even greater expan­sion to 1,000 war­heads to counter the United States. It also advo­cat­ed build­ing addi­tion­al Dongfeng 41 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Ju Lang Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) to help achieve that goal. This call likely channeled the sen­ti­ments among many in the CCP lead­er­ship due to the publication’s close­ness to the party.

China has assem­bled 2,200 mid- and long-range mis­siles, which START for­mal­ly has kept Russia from field­ing, with­out con­straints.

These devel­op­ments have Pentagon offi­cials alarmed.

“We are on a tra­jec­to­ry to go to a place that the nation has never been before where we will face two peer nuclear-capa­ble adver­saries that have to be deterred dif­fer­ent­ly,” Admiral Charles Richard, com­man­der of the U.S. Strategic Command said last Thursday during tes­ti­mo­ny before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We’re on a path by the end of the decade to face two peer nuclear-capa­ble adver­saries.

“We’ve never faced that before in our nation’s his­to­ry.”

Richard argued that pol­i­cy­mak­ers should not treat China’s nuclear threat dif­fer­ent­ly than that from Russia. China has shown increas­ing evi­dence that it has pulled away from its vow not to use nuclear weapons first.

China has been the world’s lead­ing nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tor in recent decades, anoth­er reason to demand trans­paren­cy.  

Without China, there would not have been a person like Abdul Qadeer Khan who spread nuclear weapons tech­nol­o­gy. And with­out Khan, there would be no Pakistani nuclear weapons, no North Korean nuclear weapons and no Iranian nuclear pro­gram.

China lags far behind America and Russia in terms of its nuclear stock­pile, but its deliv­ery capa­bil­i­ties and com­pe­ten­cies are improv­ing fast. In 2019, China conducted 225 bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests and has done at least sev­en­ty this year. This exceed­ed the number of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests con­duct­ed by all other nations com­bined in the same time period.

Richard told the Senate panel China’s tech­ni­cal capa­bil­i­ties and com­pe­ten­cies more than made up for its small­er nuclear stock­pile.

China has embarked on build­ing an enhanced nuclear triad of air‑, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons that will direct­ly threat­en its neigh­bors.

This includes its mod­ern­ized H‑6N nuclear-capa­ble refu­e­lable jet bomber with a range of 3,728 miles, which puts U.S. bases in Guam within range and has been used in wargames tar­get­ing Taiwan.

China hopes to match U.S. and Russian SLBM com­pe­ten­cies by 2035 and to deploy its third gen­er­a­tion SLBM by 2025. It tested a JL‑3 mis­sile with an esti­mat­ed range of 7,500 miles last year. This mis­sile likely will carry mul­ti­ple inde­pen­dent­ly tar­get­ed reen­try vehi­cles (MIRV) that will make the JL‑3 capa­ble of tar­get­ing mul­ti­ple cities.

On land, China is improving the capa­bil­i­ties of its ICBMs with MIRVs, thus increas­ing the war­heads capa­ble of threat­en­ing U.S. cities. The Pentagon noted that China is inves­ti­gat­ing rail- and silo-based capa­bil­i­ties.

This pro­vides U.S. plan­ners with the impe­tus to move for­ward with bipar­ti­san-sup­port­ed nuclear modernization. This should be used to force China to come to the bar­gain­ing table by remind­ing it of American nuclear suprema­cy because it only fears mil­i­tary force. Just as China now threat­ens its neigh­bors; it must know that its forces on the main­land and at sea face destruc­tion should it attack, thus cre­at­ing a dis­in­cen­tive to do so.

Congress must there­fore pro­vide ade­quate fund­ing mod­ern­iza­tion of the U.S. nuclear stock­pile as deter­rence.

John Rossomando is a Senior Analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been fea­tured in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior man­ag­ing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily news­pa­per in Philadelphia and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his report­ing.

Image: Reuters.

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