On Tuesday, the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which oversees the U.S. nuclear arsenal, called out China’s secretive construction of vast new missile silo fields, capable of storing nuclear missiles.
“This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it,” STRATCOM tweeted.
STRATCOM’s tweet referenced a report published Tuesday by the New York Times detailing the construction of new missile silos near the Chinese city of Hami, in the Xinjiang Province of western China. Researchers estimated China has prepared a complex for about 110 new missile silos, with 14 silo construction sites already set up and preparations for 19 more silos underway.
The discovery of the new missile silos near Hami came less than a month after other independent researchers found what they believe are construction efforts for a separate 119-missile silo field near the Chinese city of Yumen.
STRATCOM has previously shared warnings about China’s expanding nuclear arsenal.
In May, STRATCOM tweeted, “Shout out to @NSRI_NU for their incredibly detailed research identifying the potential of China’s plutonium production. Their findings: 50% more plutonium than previously estimated & potential to create over 1,000 nuclear devices. Read the full report below.”
In December, STRATCOM tweeted, “In this multi-polar, multi-domain strategic world we live in, Russia & China are attempting to erode the stability of international norms. With new strategic threats & less transparency, this is a challenge we rise to face every day. @US_EUCOM, @INDOPACOM, #JointWarfighter.”
Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen, researchers with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), wrote that the newly discovered silo construction sites at Hami and Yumen “constitutes the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever.”
The FAS researchers estimated China has already been operating about 20 DF-5B missile silos for decades. Between the 119 new silos at the Yumen site, the 110 new silos at the Hami site, about a dozen silos at Jilantai, and potentially more silos being added at the existing DF-5B sites, the FAS researchers estimated China is building 250 new silos.
“China’s construction of nearly 250 new silos has serious implications for international relations and China’s role in the world,” the FAS researchers wrote. “The Chinese government has for decades insisted it has a minimum deterrent and that it is not part of any nuclear arms race. Although it remains unclear how many silos will actually be filled with missiles, the massive silo construction and China’s other nuclear modernization programs are on a scale that appears to contradict these policies: the build-up is anything but ‘minimum’ and appears to be part of a race for more nuclear arms to better compete with China’s adversaries. The silo construction will likely further deepen military tension, fuel fear of China’s intentions, embolden arguments that arms control and constraints are naïve, and that U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals cannot be reduced further but instead must be adjusted to take into account the Chinese nuclear build-up.”