China’s military is engaged in a rapid nuclear buildup and Beijing’s refusal to hold arms talks with the United States may violate an international treaty, three House Republican leaders warned in a letter to President Biden.
The Republicans asked the president to present a clear strategy for coaxing Beijing into holding arms control talks over a nuclear forces build-up that is likely to produce as many as 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.
China’s current warhead arsenal is around 250 weapons but is projected by the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command to double, triple, or even quadruple in the coming years.
China has rejected holding talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in part in a protocol dispute over who would meet with the U.S. military leaders.
The lawmakers noted that Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear weapons states to hold good faith negotiations on arms reductions.
“Despite China being a party to the NPT, it has not only consistently refused to negotiate in ‘good faith’ but has refused to negotiate at all,” the congressmen stated in the June 8 letter. “We are left to reach no other conclusion that China is in violation of” the treaty.
The letter was organized by the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, of Texas, and was signed by Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Devin Nunes,” ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The letter comes as the Biden administration is set to conduct a nuclear posture review that is likely to adopt the past policies of seeking to reduce the role of nuclear weapons that was first put forward under President Obama.
“In the coming months, we will begin to explore those steps that can be taken to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy,” Leonor Tomero, deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear and missile defense, told a Senate hearing last month.
The administration will continue to ensure strategic nuclear forces remain safe, secure and effective, and that extended nuclear deterrence for allies remains strong, she said.
Adm. Charles Richard, Strategic Command commander, recently disclosed to Congress that China has changed the alert status of some of its nuclear missiles to “launch on warning.” Adm. Richard said the Chinese nuclear build-up could result in a doubling, tripling or quadrupling of warheads within the next 10 years.
“Based on most open-source estimates, to include those produced by the Department of Defense, this could bring the size of the deployed Chinese nuclear deterrent to approximately 1,000 warheads by 2030,” Mr. McCaul, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Nunes stated.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines also told Congress in April that China is fielding what the congressmen called “a full Cold War-style triad of nuclear assets” including long-range missiles, nuclear bombers and nuclear missile submarines.
“China‘s ballistic missile arsenal 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 second-strike capability,’” the letter states.
The comments by Adm. Richard and Ms. Haines indicate China will achieve nuclear parity with the United States by 2029.
The American nuclear arsenal is currently undergoing a modernization program that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost $494 billion between 2019 and 2028. The modernization includes new missiles, bombers and missile submarines along with advanced command and control systems.
To better educate the public on the Chinese nuclear buildup, the three congressmen asked the president to provide Congress with a comprehensive interagency strategy to get Beijing to hold meaningful arms talks.
“This strategy should include the full use of our diplomatic, military, intelligence, and sanctions toolbox to bring them to the table,” the letter states.
The Republicans also asked for the administration to determine if China is violating the NPT and “to include any underlying intelligence indicative of China’s willingness to enter into good-faith arms control negotiations as required by the treaty.”
Congress also wants the administration to provide an updated intelligence report on Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization trends, as well as those nations’ efforts to develop chemical and biological weapons.
“Over the last decade the threat environment has worsened and become more complicated,” Mr. McCaul, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Nunes said. “As I’m sure you agree, the time to arrest China’s build-up is now, not after they deploy new delivery systems and materially expand the size of their stockpile.”
They urged continuing to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal that is needed to deter both China and Russia.