The PLA has been increasing the number of both nuclear and conventional warheads in its strategic missile command, according to an official military document.
The document, official teaching materials for the strategic missile command as well as the air, ground and naval branches of the People’s Liberation Army, corroborates suspicions among military experts that China has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal amid a global trend toward a reduction of nuclear arms.
China’s strategic missile command, officially known as the Second Artillery Command, serves as the nation’s core nuclear deterrent and underscores Beijing’s status as one of the world’s major nuclear powers.
To enhance China’s nuclear deterrent, the strategic missile command will “appropriately increase the number of nuclear warheads”, a military source quoted the document as saying.
The document also says the strategic missile command will strengthen its conventional missile force by increasing the number of conventional warheads and developing more powerful non-nuclear warheads.
While nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles form the backbone of military deterrence among the world’s major nuclear powers, military strategists consider missiles armed with non-nuclear warheads as more “usable” weapons.
The PLA document also says the military will increase its capability to attack enemy satellites and destroy enemy missiles.
The document suggests that the PLA is independently bolstering its strategic missile force, while saying China will not be part of an arms race with other nuclear powers.
China set up its strategic missile command in the 1960s with the aim of giving it retaliatory power against the United States and other major nuclear powers.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China has about 250 deployed nuclear warheads. In contrast, Russia has about 4,500 and the United States about 2,100.
Despite the advance of nuclear-weapons technology, nuclear arms have been off-limits in the world’s military conflicts since the second world war.
The inhibition against the use of nuclear weapons with their massive destructive power has increased the importance of advanced non-nuclear arms in warfare.