Commander of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, has raised alarm over the speed at which China is expanding its nuclear weapons programme. Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of US Strategic Command is also the US military nuclear chief. As the US military nuclear chief, he heads the US' nuclear weapons programme.
During the Naval Submarine League Annual Symposium, an event which is closed to the general public, the admiral said that America's ability to deter China was declining, as per reports from CNN. “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking. It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are," said the Admiral, calling it a "near term problem". “As those curves keep going, it isn’t going to matter how good our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our forces are – we’re not going to have enough of them. And that is a very near-term problem," said Charles Richard.
China became a nuclear armed nation back in 1964, two years after winning the 1962 war with India. By the 1980s, China had developed missiles which were capable of hitting the US. At the United Nations, China reaffirmed its 'no first use' nuclear weapons policy. According to the Nuclear Posture Review, a policy document mentioned in the CNN report, China intends to develop 1,000 deliverable war heads by the end of 2020s. The goal is to have enough to overwhelm America's missile defences and seek parity with the numerical advantage the US has. According to the arms control association, China currently has 350 nuclear warheads, and as per the assessments by the US Department of Defence, China will have 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027.
That is a striking amount of surge in warheads, which is why Admiral Charles Richard even back in 2021 said that the world is witnessing a "strategic breakout" in China's nuclear weapons programme. “We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China. The explosive growth and modernisation of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking, and, frankly, that word breathtaking may not be enough,” said the Admiral. "The PRC is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it. Beijing has ambitions to create an enhanced sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power. It is using its technological capacity and increasing influence over international institutions to create more permissive conditions for its own authoritarian model, and to mould global technology use and norms to privilege its interests and values," read the US National Security Strategy, which was published on October 12.