The move comes as China insists it controls disputed waterways in the South and East China Seas.
A U.S. Defense Department report says China is strengthening its weapons by adding several small nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.
China has been able to add these nuclear warheads since the 1990s. The fact that it is doing so now raises concern about a local arms race in Asia.
Hans Kristensen directs the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. He says nuclear weapons are becoming more modern. As a result, he says, countries can easily answer each other’s moves by making their own weapons more powerful.
“So one has to be really careful, that, you know, if you ask any of these countries, none of what they’re doing is very dramatic, and none of it has very significant importance, but it adds up over time.”
The U.S. Defense Department says China has re-engineered DF-5 missiles. China has 20 such missiles throughout the country. Adding nuclear warheads to the missiles makes them harder to stop. With them, China can now launch more than 40 warheads on the United States.
China claims its military is only for defense. But the country’s increase in military abilities has made many people question that claim.
However, a professor of international relations at Peking University says China’s military ability is far behind that of other countries. Wang Dong says China’s strategic capability is no match for the U.S. or Russia’s.
China is strengthening its missile power at a time when the country is showing increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. China and several nations, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have all claimed control of small islands in the area.
The U.S. says it will send ships and observation planes to the area in answer to the territorial dispute.