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Nuclear Disarmament China

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Nuclear Disarmament China

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Arsenal and Missile Types

NPT Nuclear Weapon State

Size

  • Most opaque of the nuclear weapon states; limited open source information.
  • Total inventory of nuclear warheads: approximately 320; approximately 160 are deployed 1

Key Delivery Systems

  • Land-based missiles: Approximately 180 to 240 total. (Approximately 75-100 ICBMs: DF-4, DF-5A, DF-5B, DF-31, DF-31A, DF-31AG, DF-41; Approximately 110-160 MRBMs: DF-3A, DF-21, DF-26) 2
  • The 2018 Department of Defense report states that the DF-5B is equipped to include a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) and that the DF-41 is able to carry MIRVs. 3
  • The Department of Defense also reported the possibility of China exploring other launch options for the DF-41 ICBM, which include silo based and rail-mobile based launch capabilities. 4
  • Aircraft: Approximately 20 (Hong-6) bombers with a secondary nuclear mission capable of carrying gravity bombs. A new H-20 bomber is in development and may be operational by the end of the decade. 5
  • (SLBM: China has four commissioned Jin-class SSBNs (12 JL-2 Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability per SSBN). China also has one prototype Type 092 Xia-class submarine, but it is believed to be inoperable. The JL-2 was successfully test-launched in 2013 and has an estimated range of 7,000 plus km. 6
  • Cruise missiles: Approximately 200-300 air– and ground-launched cruise missiles. The DH-10 GLCMs and CJ-20 ALCMs were both previously listed as nuclear capable in the past by the US Air Force Global Strike Command, but there is no clear consensus on their nuclear capability. 7
  • Currently replacing older, transportable, slower launch liquid-fuel missiles with longer range, road mobile, quick launch solid-fuel missiles. 8
  • 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. 9
  • No credible evidence to confirm that non-strategic nuclear weapons still remain in the operational force. 10

Capabilities and Developments

Estimated Destructive Power

  • 294 megatons 11

Military Fissile Material Stockpile (estimates)

  • Plutonium: 3.2 ± 0.6 tons of weapon-grade plutonium 12
  • HEU: Estimated 14 ± 3 tons 13

Commitments and Policies

Disarmament & Commitments to Reduce Arsenal Size

  • Legal obligation to pursue disarmament with the other nuclear weapon states under Article VI of the NPT. 14
  • China is the only nuclear weapon state party to the NPT that is increasing the size of its arsenal. 15

Future Commitments

  • In support of negotiating a verifiable FMCT provided the treaty does not cover existing stockpiles. 16
  • Advocates a long-lasting commitment to nuclear disarmament, prohibition, and destruction of nuclear weapons. 17
  • China joined all other nuclear weapons possessing states in boycotting the 2017 Nuclear Ban Treaty negotiations at the UN General Assembly. 18 China does not intend to sign the resulting Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 19

Nuclear Weapons Policies

Nuclear Testing

  • Has observed a nuclear testing moratorium since July 1996 20
  • Signed but did not ratify the CTBT 21
  • Signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 22

Use of Nuclear Weapons

  • Adopted no-first use policy 23
  • Negative security assurances to members of the Tlatelolco, Rarotonga, and Pelindaba nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ). 24 China has not signed the Bangkok treaty, but it has expressed support for a SE Asian NWFZ. 25 In April 2014, China signed and ratified the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone 26
  • Acknowledged the commitments of the NWS to negative security assurances in UN Security Council Resolution 984 (1995) 27
  • Supports legally binding unconditional negative security assurances. 28

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Glossary

Nuclear-weapon states (NWS)
NWS: As defined by Article IX, paragraph 3 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the five states that detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967 (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Coincidentally, these five states are also permanent members of the UN Security Council. States that acquired and/or tested nuclear weapons subsequently are not internationally recognized as nuclear-weapon states.
Deployment
The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM): A ballistic missile with a range greater than 5,500 km. See entry for ballistic missile.
Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV)
An offensive ballistic missile system with multiple warheads, each of which can strike a separate target and can be launched by a single booster rocket.
Silo
Hardened underground facility for housing and launching a ballistic missile.
Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
SSBN
Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear: A hull classification for a submarine capable of launching a ballistic missile. The "N", or nuclear, refers to the ship's propulsion system. SSBN's are generally reserved for strategic vessels, as most submarine launched ballistic missiles carry nuclear payloads. A non-strategic vessel carries the designation SSN, or attack submarine.
Cruise missile
An unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. There are subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles currently deployed in conventional and nuclear arsenals, while conventional hypersonic cruise missiles are currently in development. These can be launched from the air, submarines, or the ground. Although they carry smaller payloads, travel at slower speeds, and cover lesser ranges than ballistic missiles, cruise missiles can be programmed to travel along customized flight paths and to evade missile defense systems.
Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM)
A missile designed to be launched from an aircraft and jet-engine powered throughout its flight. As with all cruise missiles, its range is a function of payload, propulsion, and fuel volume, and can thus vary greatly. Under the START I Treaty, the term "long-range ALCM" means an air-launched cruise missile with a range in excess of 600 kilometers.
Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Megaton (MT)
Megaton (MT): The energy equivalent released by 1,000 kilotons (1,000,000 tons) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) explosive. Typically used as the unit of measurement to express the amount of energy released by a nuclear bomb.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Weapons-grade material
Weapons-grade material: Refers to the nuclear materials that are most suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, e.g., uranium (U) enriched to 90 percent U-235 or plutonium (Pu) that is primarily composed of Pu-239 and contains less than 7% Pu-240. Crude nuclear weapons (i.e., improvised nuclear devices), could be fabricated from lower-grade materials.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Disarmament
Though there is no agreed-upon legal definition of what disarmament entails within the context of international agreements, a general definition is the process of reducing the quantity and/or capabilities of military weapons and/or military forces.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)
The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty us currently under discussion in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to end the production of weapons-usable fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for nuclear weapons. For additional information, see the FMCT.
United Nations General Assembly
The UN General Assembly is the largest body of the United Nations. It includes all member states, but its resolutions are not legally binding. It is responsible for much of the work of the United Nations, including controlling finances, passing resolutions, and electing non-permanent members of the Security Council. It has two subsidiary bodies dealing particularly with security and disarmament: the UN General Assembly Committee on Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); and the UN Disarmament Commission. For additional information, see the UNGA.
Ratification
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Antarctic Treaty
The Antarctic Treaty was opened for signature on December 1, 1959, and entered into force on June 23, 1961. The Antarctic Treaty internationalizes and demilitarizes the Antarctic continent. It specifies that Antarctica be used for peaceful purposes only; all activities of a military nature, including testing of any type of weapon, are prohibited. No military activities, armaments, or prohibited nuclear activities have been observed on the continent during inspections by member states since the treaty went into force. For additional information, see the Antarctic Treaty.
First-use
The introduction of nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, into a conflict. In agreeing to a "no-first-use" policy, a country states that it will not use nuclear weapons first, but only under retaliatory circumstances. See entry for No-First-Use
Negative security assurances
A pledge by a nuclear weapon state that it will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state. Some states have policies that allow for the use of nuclear weapons if attacked with other WMD by a non-nuclear weapon state. See entry for Positive security assurances
Treaty of Tlatelolco
The Treaty of Tlatelolco: This treaty, opened for signature in February 1967, created a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Treaty of Tlatelolco was the first international agreement that aimed to exclude nuclear weapons from an inhabited region of the globe. The member states accept the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all their nuclear activities. The treaty also establishes a regional organization, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL), to supervise treaty implementation and ensure compliance with its provisions. For additional information, see the LANWFZ.
Treaty of Rarotonga
Treaty of Rarotonga: The Treaty on the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SPNWFZ) prohibits the testing, manufacturing, acquiring, and stationing of nuclear explosive devices on any member's territory. The treaty also prohibits the dumping of radioactive wastes into the sea. In addition, the treaty required all parties to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. For additional information, see the SPNWFZ.
Treaty of Pelindaba
Treaty of Pelindaba: The Treaty on the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone was opened for signature in Cairo in April 1996. The treaty prohibits the research, development, manufacturing, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control, and stationing of nuclear explosive devices on any member’s territory. The treaty also prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste originating from outside the continent within the region. In addition, the treaty requires parties to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. The treaty also provides for the establishment of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), which supervises treaty implementation and ensures compliance with its provisions. For additional information, see the ANWFZ.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ)
NWFZ: A geographical area in which nuclear weapons may not legally be built, possessed, transferred, deployed, or tested.
Treaty of Bangkok
Treaty of Bangkok: The Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone prohibits the development, manufacture, acquisition, or testing of nuclear weapons anywhere within the region. It also prohibits the transport of nuclear weapons through the region, as well as the dumping at sea, discharging into the atmosphere, or burying on land of any radioactive material or waste. In addition, the treaty requires all parties to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. For additional information, see the SEANWFZ.
Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (SEANWFZ)
The Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (SEANWFZ) prohibits the development, manufacture, acquisition, or testing of nuclear weapons anywhere within the region. It also prohibits the transport of nuclear weapons through the region, as well as the dumping at sea, discharging into the atmosphere, or burying on land of any radioactive material or waste. In addition, the treaty requires all parties to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities. For additional information, see the SEANWFZ.
Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ)
The Central Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (CANWFZ) includes all five Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The foreign ministers of the five countries signed the treaty establishing the zone on 8 September 2006 at the former Soviet nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The treaty entered into force on 21 March 2009. For additional information, see the CANWFZ.
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council: Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Council consists of fifteen members, five of which—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are permanent members. The other ten members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The five permanent members possess veto powers. For additional information, see the UNSC.

Sources

  1. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Federation of American Scientists, November 2018, 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, 2018,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 74, No. 4, (June 2018), p. 289-295.
  3. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2019,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 75, No. 4, (June 2019), p. 171-178.
  4. U.S. Department of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” 16 May 2018, www.defense.gov.
  5. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2018,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 74, No. 4, (June 2018), p. 289-295.
  6. U.S. Department of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” 16 May 2018, www.defense.gov; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2018,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 74, No. 4, (June 2018), p. 289-295.
  7. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2018,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 74, No. 4, (June 2018), p. 294.
  8. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2019,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 75, No. 4, (June 2019), p. 171-178.
  9. Mark A. Stokes, “China's Nuclear Warhead Storage and Handling System,” Project 2049 Institute, 12 March 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, 25 April 2014, www.fas.org.
  10. “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Federation of American Scientists, 28 April 2015, www.fas.org.
  11. Eliminating Nuclear Threats, ICNND Report, 2009, www.icnnd.org.
  12. “Countries: China,” International Panel on Fissile Material, 18 May 2020, www.fissilematerials.org.
  13. Hui Zhang, “China’s Fissile Material Production and Stockpile,” International Panel on Fissile Material, December 2017, p. 3, www.fissilematerials.org.
  14. Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, www.nti.org.
  15. Daniel Cebul, “Which Nations Increased the Size of Their Nuclear Arsenal in 2017?” Defense News, 19 June 2018, www.defensenews.com.
  16. “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.
  17. China Statement to Main Committee I at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, 4 May 2015, www.un.org; China Statement at the General Debate of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, 27 April 2015, www.un.org.
  18. “Positions on the treaty,” International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 7 July 2017, www.icanw.org.
  19. “Russia, UK, China, US, France Won’t Sign Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” TASS, 29 October 2018, http://tass.com.
  20. “Nuclear Testing 1945 – Today,” Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, www.ctbto.org.
  21. 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, 9 April 2012, www.thebulletin.org.
  22. Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, www.nti.org.
  23. 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, 3 May 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  24. Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (NWFZ) Clearinghouse, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nonproliferation.org.
  25. Peter Crail, “Progress Made on SE Asian Nuclear Pact,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 41, December 2011, www.armscontrol.org.
  26. Central Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (CASWFZ), Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
  27. Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (NWFZ) Clearinghouse, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nonproliferation.org.
  28. “Nuclear Disarmament and the Reduction of the Danger of Nuclear War,” Working Paper submitted by China to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, 27 April 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

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