China's advancements in its nuclear capability, including that the accelerated pace of their nuclear expansion, may enable China to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027, the US Department of Defense (DOD) said.
"The accelerating pace of the PLA's (People's Liberation Army) nuclear expansion may enable the PRC (People's Republic of China) to have up to about 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027," the official said. "And the report states that the PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030 — exceeding the pace and the size that we projected in the 2020 China Military Power report," the Department said in a report.
The report also reveals that China may have already established a nuclear triad, which includes the ability to launch such missiles from the air, ground and sea.
"The PRC has possibly already established a nascent 'nuclear triad' with the development of a nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missile and improvement of its ground- and sea-based nuclear capabilities," the report reads.
New to the report this year is a section on the Chinese military's chemical and biological research efforts. It says China has engaged in biological activities with potential dual-use applications and that this raises concerns regarding its compliance with the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The report concludes that China continues to be clear in its ambitions to be competitive with world-class military powers, a DOD official said.
"The PLA's evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen its ability to fight and win wars, to use their own phrase, against what the PRC refers to as a 'strong enemy' — again, another phrase that appears in their publications. And a ‘strong enemy', of course, is very likely a euphemism for the US," he said.
According to the report, a big part of China's effort to match the strength of a "strong enemy" involves major modernization and reform efforts within China's army. Those efforts include an ongoing effort to achieve "mechanisation", which the report describes as the Chinese army's efforts to modernize its weapons and equipment to be networked into a "systems of systems" and to also utilise more advanced technologies suitable for "informatised" and "intelligentised" warfare.
Also of significance are China's efforts to project military power outside it's own borders.
"The PRC is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances," the DOD official said.
"We're talking about not just within the immediate environments, environments in the Indo-Pacific, but throughout the Indo-Pacific region and indeed, around the world."
The official said China's army has sought to modernize its capabilities and improve its proficiency across all warfare domains, so that, as a joint force, it can conduct the range of land, air, and maritime operations that are envisioned in army publications, as well as in space, counterspace, electronic warfare and cyber operations.