The communist Chinese government is engaged in its largest nuclear weapons expansion in history, according to the top U.S. intelligence official this week.
In her opening remarks before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines said the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) is “engaged in the largest ever nuclear force expansion and arsenal diversification in its history.”
In the DNI’s Annual Threat Assessment for 2022, Haines’ office noted that China is building hundreds of new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. Satellite images from last summer revealed several new Chinese ICBM silo fields that are under construction. The assessment further noted that in 2020 China had operationally fielded its nuclear-capable H-6N bomber, which comprises the air component of a Chinese nuclear triad. The assessment also noted the launch, over the summer, of a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle, which circled the globe.
“China is building a larger and increasingly capable nuclear missile and bomber force that is more survivable, more diverse, and on higher alert than in the past, including nuclear missile systems designed to manage regional escalation and ensure an intercontinental strike capability in any scenario,” the 2022 Threat Assessment states.
In her Tuesday testimony, Haines said China is “coming ever closer to being a peer competitor in areas of relevance to national security.” Haines said China’s efforts are intended to “revise global norms and institutions to its advantage.”
Part of what is allowing China to expand its nuclear arsenal, as well as increasingly challenge the U.S. militarily, as well as economically and technologically, is its efficiency at “bringing together a coordinated, whole of government approach.” Haines said that whole of government approach allows China to demonstrate strength and intimidate neighboring countries to “acquiesce to its preferences, including its territorial and maritime claims and assertions of sovereignty over Taiwan.”
Haines assessed China is trying to force reunification with Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory. Haines said China prefers to achieve this reunification with Taiwan through coercion rather than open armed conflict.
Haines said China is also working to “match or exceed U.S. capabilities in space, and presents the broadest, most active, and persistent cyber espionage threat to U.S. government and private sector networks.”
Also during the hearing, Haines and other U.S. intelligence officials assessed that sanctions intended to punish Russia for invading Ukraine have pushed it closer to forming an alliance with China.
“I believe that it continues to be the case that they are getting closer together,” Haines said. “We see that across a range of sectors — economic, political, security and expect it to continue.”
Haines said there are limits to the cooperation between Russia and China at the moment, “but nevertheless, that remains a concern.“