For the second time this summer, satellite images seem to show a field of silos under construction that could launch nuclear missiles. Researchers from the Federation of American Scientists spotted the construction in the western province of Xinjiang, the BBC reports. They saw sites for 14 silos, just under two miles apart, laid out in a grid, according to the group's report. Another 19 spots looked to be cleared of soil in preparation for construction. There's room for about 110 underground silos in the field, the report said. Last month, researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California spotted a similar project in a desert near the city of Yumen in the northwest, per the Washington Post. That site also appeared to be able to accommodate more than 100 new silos. The photos in both cases were taken by commercial satellites.
"The silo construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever," the federation's report said. China lags far behind the US and Russia in nuclear capability, with an estimated 350 nuclear warheads to their almost 4,000 apiece, per the Wall Street Journal. But the US Defense Department has warned that China plans to double its arsenal. The Pentagon's Strategic Command responded to the scientists' report in a tweet. "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," it said. State media in China dismissed reports on the first silo field as disinformation; the government made no comment about the second. China, which has not participated in talks about nuclear arms reductions, has said it has only enough nuclear weapons for deterrence and would not fire them unless attacked. (Read more China stories.)