China currently has fewer nuclear warheads than France, but it is working hard to double that number in the next decade, the Pentagon says. The Pentagon, releasing its estimate of China's warheads for the first time, believes they number in the low 200s, compared to around 300 for France and more than 3,800 active nuclear warheads for the US. Pentagon analysts say Beijing is working to expand and updates its "triad" of missiles that can be launched from air, land, and sea, the Wall Street Journal reports. "China’s nuclear forces appear to be on a trajectory to exceed the size of a ‘minimum deterrent’ as described in the PLA’s own writings as a small quantity of nuclear weapons to strike enemy urban targets," the Pentagon report states.
According to the Pentagon report, Beijing has stockpiled enough fissile material to double the size of its nuclear arsenal without needing to produce more such material. Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, says the US is "concerned about the numbers ... but also just the trajectory of China's nuclear developments writ large," per Al Jazeera. The Trump administration has said it wants the New START nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia, which has an estimated 4,300 warheads, to be expanded to include China. The treaty expires in February. In July, Chinese diplomats said they would be happy to take part in arms control negotiations—as long as the US reduced its stockpile to the size of China's. (Read more China stories.)