- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2010


Richard Fisher’s highly speculative Op-Ed column on China and START (“China and START: Missile buildup may surpass U.S., Russia as they denuclearize,” Commentary, Thursday) is based on fears rather than facts.

The idea that China could build hundreds of warheads every year runs counter to U.S. estimates, which indicate that China does not have enough fissile material for such increases and is not producing more. One step the United States could take to ensure that China does not increase warhead numbers rapidly would be to accelerate negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which the United States and China support.

Before China’s missiles could carry multiple warheads, they would need to be flight-tested in this way, and U.S. early-warning satellites would give a clear indication of such tests. Moreover, China’s existing nuclear warheads are believed to be too heavy for its missiles to carry multiple warheads. Developing lighter warheads would require a series of nuclear tests, which the international monitoring system would detect with high confidence. The United States could inhibit Chinese multiple-warhead deployments by ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and urging China to do so as well because it would ban future Chinese nuclear tests.

Recent Pentagon reports suggest China may increase the number of warheads deployed on missiles that can reach the United States from 50 to 100 by 2020. Under New START, the United States will have more than 15 times as many. Fears of impending nuclear parity between the United States and China are unfounded.


Senior analyst, China Project Manager

Union of Concerned Scientists


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