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US: China Building More Nuclear Silos  07/30 06:20

   The U.S. military is warning about what analysts have described as a major 
expansion of China's nuclear missile silo fields at a time of heightened 
tension between Beijing and Washington.

   TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- The U.S. military is warning about what analysts have 
described as a major expansion of China's nuclear missile silo fields at a time 
of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington.

   Researchers at the Federation of American Scientists estimate that China has 
approximately 250 underground missile silos under construction after they used 
satellite imagery to identify a new field being built in western China.

   U.S. Strategic Command tweeted a link Wednesday to a story in The New York 
Times on the federation's findings, which were published this week.

   "The public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the 
growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it," said 
Strategic Command, which oversees America's nuclear arsenal.

   The field in the Xinjiang region is the second one reported this summer. In 
June, researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in 
California identified another field under construction in neighboring Gansu 
province.

   China has not commented on the reports. Asked about the latest one, the 
Foreign Ministry said Friday that it was not aware of the situation.

   The reports come at a time when relations between the U.S. and China have 
plunged to their worst level in decades. The two nations remain sharply at odds 
over a range of issues, including trade, technology, cybersecurity, human 
rights and China's increasingly assertive foreign policy under President Xi 
Jinping.

   The expansion of China's nuclear force would likely factor into any U.S. 
calculations for potential military confrontations over flashpoints such as 
Taiwan or the South China Sea.

   The outspoken editor of the state-owned Global Times newspaper said this 
week that U.S. institutions and the media are hyping the reports about the 
missile fields to pressure China, but that the nation shouldn't be cowed.

   "Look at what American politicians are saying about China and look at the 
provocative actions of their warplanes and warships near China," Hu Xijin said. 
"China must fully step up construction of its military force and nuclear 
deterrence as the cornerstone of its national security."

   Both sites are around 800 square kilometers (300 square miles). Ground-based 
silos can house intercontinental ballistic missiles. Spreading the silos across 
such a wide area makes targeting the field much more complicated. Analysts say 
some of the silos may serve as decoys as well.

   "The Chinese missile silo program constitutes the most extensive silo 
construction since the U.S. and Soviet missile silo construction during the 
Cold War," researchers Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen wrote in the Federation 
of American Scientists report.

   Kuo Yu-jen, a defense studies expert at the Institute for National Policy 
Research in Taiwan, said it's very difficult to get an accurate count of the 
underground silos of any country, but that the recently released satellite 
imagery looks "very, very similar" to missile silos.

   He characterized the findings as a warning by the U.S. to others that China, 
in developing its nuclear weapon capabilities, is violating an international 
consensus geared toward nuclear disarmament.

   "It's also to let Russia know. China, if it increases its number of 
missiles, it threatens not only the U.S., but also Russia and Europe," said 
Kuo, the director at the Institute for National Policy Research in Taiwan.

   The U.S. and Russia, who have the world's largest nuclear arsenals, held 
inconclusive talks this week in Geneva in a bid to avoid a new nuclear arms 
race.

   China's nuclear arsenal is estimated by the Stockholm International Peace 
Research Institute at 350 warheads, while the United States or Russia each has 
about 6,000. The Pentagon says China will at least double the size of its 
arsenal in 10 years.

   The recent research follows a finding by Kristensen in February of 
construction of 11 underground silos at a vast missile training range near 
Jilantai in north-central China.

 
 
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