Monday, May 23, 2011

Analysis: Questions remain on China’s nuclear stance

Various hurdles make it nearly impossible to assess the true scope of the Chinese nuclear arsenal, and doubts remain over its no first use policy

A recent report on China’s nuclear weapons capabilities has re-ignited debate on the country’s nuclear policy and the overall lack of transparency surrounding the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In its China’s Nuclear Arsenal: Status and Evolution briefing paper released on Monday last week, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said the Chinese government had no intention of reaching numerical parity with the US on nuclear weapons and did not have the nuclear material to do so.

Released to coincide with the arrival of PLA Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) in Washington, the paper said recent advances in China’s nuclear forces were intended to ensure the arsenal would survive an attack and preserve China’s ability to retaliate.

Beijing was not focused on increasing its offensive capability, it said, and its relatively small nuclear arsenal is solely for deterrent purposes.


Seen as the latest salvo in an ongoing debate on China’s nuclear missile arsenal and strategy, the report has been met with some skepticism by defense experts, who say that the UCS may have underestimated the number of nuclear warheads in the PLA arsenal.

My analysis, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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