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Nuclear Disarmament China

China: NPT Nuclear Weapon State


DH-4 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Wikimedia Commons


Arsenal Size

  • Most opaque of the nuclear weapon states; limited open source information.
  • Total inventory of nuclear warheads: approximately 260; approximately 160 are deployed [1]

Key Delivery Systems

  • Land-based missiles: Approximately 150 total. (Approximately 50-60 ICBMs: DF-4, DF-5A, DF-31, DF-31A, DF-41 (developmental), the U.S. intelligence community assesses that China will have "well over" 100 warheads capable of striking the United States by the mid-2020s; MRBM: DF-3A, DF-21) [2]
  • 2015 DOD report revealed that approximately 10 of 20 DF-5 have been modified to include a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) and states that the DF-41 may be able to carry MIRVs. [3]
  • Aircraft: 20 (Hong-6) [4]
  • SLBM: 4 commissioned Jin-class SSBNs with more under construction (12 missile capability per SSBN). According to a 2014 DOD report, China has approximately 48 submarine-launched ballistic missiles; 12 JL-1 SLBMs and 36 JL-2 SLBMs. The JL-2 was successfully test-launched in 2013 and has an estimated range of 7,000 plus km. [5]
  • Cruise missiles: A 2014 DOD report estimates 150-300 DH-10 GLCMs (conventional or nuclear capability); no estimate on the quantity of CJ-20 ALCMs (US Air Force Global Strike Command lists the CJ-20 as nuclear capable) [6]
  • Currently replacing older, transportable, slower launch liquid-fuel missiles with longer range, road mobile, quick launch solid-fuel missiles. [7]
  • The warheads are controlled by the Central Military Commission and kept in central facilities located throughout China. If a nuclear threat should arise, nuclear warheads would be mated with missiles and SSBNs would have to be equipped with warheads before deployment. However, recent satellite images have prompted speculation that Chinese warheads will eventually be deployed on patrolling SSBNs beyond Chinese borders, similarly to some other nuclear weapon states. [8]
  • No credible evidence to confirm that non-strategic nuclear weapons still remain in the operational force. [9]

Estimated Destructive Power

Military Fissile Material Stockpile (estimates)

Disarmament and Commitments to Reduce Arsenal Size

  • Legal obligation to pursue disarmament with the other nuclear weapon states under Article VI of the NPT. [13]

Future Commitments

  • In support of negotiating a verifiable FMCT provided the treaty does not cover existing stockpiles. [14]
  • Advocates a long-lasting commitment to nuclear disarmament, prohibition, and destruction of nuclear weapons. [15]

Nuclear Weapons Policies

Nuclear Testing

  • Has observed a nuclear testing moratorium since July 1996 [16]
  • Signed but did not ratify the CTBT [17]
  • Signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 [18]

Use of Nuclear Weapons

Sources:
[1] "Status of World Nuclear Forces," Federation of American Scientists, April 28, 2015, www. fas.org; "Increasing Transparency of Nuclear-warhead and Fissile-material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament," International Panel on Fissile Materials, June 2015, www.fissilematerials.org.
[2] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, June/July 2015, pp. 77-84, www.thebulletin.org
[3] Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2015" Annual Report to Congress, April 7, 2015, www.defense.gov; Jefferey Lewis, "Great, Now China's Got Multiple Nuclear Warhead Missiles," Foreign Policy, May 26, 2015, www.foreignpolicy.com; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, June/July 2015, pp. 77-84, www.thebulletin.org.
[4] Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2014," Nuclear Notebook, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 2014, pp. 79-85, www.thebulletin.org.
[5] "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2015" Annual Report to Congress, April 7, 2015, www.defense.gov; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, June/July 2015, pp. 77-84, www.thebulletin.org.
[6] "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2015" Annual Report to Congress, April 7, 2015, www.defense.gov.
[7] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, June/July 2015, pp. 77-84, www.thebulletin.org.
[8] Mark A. Stokes, "China's Nuclear Warhead Storage and Handling System," Project 2049 Institute, March 12, 2010, www.project2049.net; Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2011," Nuclear Notebook, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, November/December 2011, pp. 81-87, www.thebulletin.org; Hans M. Kristensen, "China SSBN Fleet Getting Ready – But for What?" Strategic Security Blog, Federation of American Scientists, April 25, 2014, www.fas.org.
[9] "Status of World Nuclear Forces," Federation of American Scientists, April 28, 2015, www.fas.org.
[10] Eliminating Nuclear Threats, ICNND Report, 2009 www.icnnd.org.
[11] International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Increasing Transparency of Nuclear-warhead and Fissile-material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament," June 2015, www.fissilematerial.org.
[12] International Panel on Fissile Materials, "Increasing Transparency of Nuclear-warhead and Fissile-material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament," June 2015, www.fissilematerial.org.
[13] Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, www.nti.org.
[14] "China's National Defense in 2010," Information Office of the State Council, The People's Republic of China (Beijing), March 2011, www.gov.cn/english.
[15] China Statement to Main Committee I at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 4, 2015, www.un.org; China Statement at the General Debate of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, April 27, 2015, www.un.org.
[16] CTBTO website, Nuclear Testing page, www.ctbto.org.
[17] Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, www.nti.org; Kingston Reif, "The Case for the CTBT: Stronger than Ever," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Web Edition, April 9, 2012, www.thebulletin.org.
[18] Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, www.nti.org.
[19] Statement by H.E. Mr. Wu Haitao, Chinese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs on the Issue of Nuclear Disarmament at the First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference, May 3, 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[20] Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (NWFZ) Clearinghouse, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nonproliferation.org.
[21] Peter Crail, "Progress Made on SE Asian Nuclear Pact," Arms Control Today, Vol. 41, December 2011, www.armscontrol.org.
[22] Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (CASWFZ), Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
[23] Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (NWFZ) Clearinghouse, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nonproliferation.org.
[24] "Nuclear Disarmament and the Reduction of the Danger of Nuclear War," Working Paper submitted by China to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, April 27, 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[25] China Statement to Main Committee I of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 4, 2015, www.un.org; China Statement at the General Debate of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, April 27, 2015, www.un.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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