• Kyodo

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China is likely to possess at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, the Pentagon has said in its annual report on the Chinese military, a sharp increase from last year's projection of Beijing reaching a total of 400 over a period of 10 years.

The latest estimate by the U.S. Defense Department suggests growing concern in Washington over the potential for rapid growth of China's nuclear arsenal as the rivalry between the two countries intensifies in various fields.

The report said China is expected to be capable of possessing up to 700 nuclear warheads by 2027, when the country's military marks the 100th anniversary of its founding.

China aims to modernize, diversify and expand its nuclear weaponry over the next 10 years, the report added.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia has 6,255 nuclear warheads, followed by the United States with 5,550 as of January this year. China possesses 350 nuclear warheads.

In February, the United States and Russia agreed on a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) — the last remaining treaty capping their nuclear arsenals.

The New START limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and no more than 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armament.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden wants China to take part in the nuclear arms control talks with Russia, but Beijing has rejected the idea.

The Pentagon report also warned that China may have established its own nuclear triad consisting of ICBM, SLBM and air-launched ballistic missiles.

If China succeeds in modernizing its military, it will have a reliable military option in the event of contingencies involving Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island, the report said.

Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

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