China appears to be building a new nuclear missile silo field, according to a report by the Federation of American Scientists.
The report, posted Monday, said satellite images appear to show a new missile silo field under construction near the city of Hami in the Xinjiang region.
The images reportedly show dome shelters have been built over at least 14 silos. Land has been cleared for construction of another 19 silos. The outline of the site indicated it could include about 110 silos.
In late June, The Washington Post reported China was building what experts say are more than 100 new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles near the northwest city of Yumen.
The newspaper noted that the acquisition of more than 100 new missile silos, if completed, would represent a historic shift for China.
The country is believed to have a relatively modest stockpile of 250 to 350 nuclear weapons. The newspaper cautioned that China has deployed decoy silos in the past.
"If the silos under construction at other sites across China are added to the count, the total comes to about 145 silos under construction," Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, part of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said in a summary of his findings prior to the latest silo field being uncovered.
"We believe China is expanding its nuclear forces in part to maintain a deterrent that can survive a U.S. first strike in sufficient numbers to defeat U.S. missile defenses."
And the Federation of Scientists noted that the number of new Chinese silos now being built "exceeds the number of silo-based ICBMs operated by Russia, and constitutes more than half of the size of the entire US ICBM force. The Chinese missile silo program constitutes the most extensive silo construction since the US and Soviet missile silo construction during the Cold War."
"The silo construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever," the federation said in its report.
And it added: "It should be emphasized that it is unknown how China will operate the new silos and how many warheads each missile will carry. Regardless, the silo construction represents a significant increase of the Chinese arsenal, which the Federation of American Scientists currently estimated includes approximately 350 nuclear warheads."
Jeffrey Rodack ✉
Jeffrey Rodack, who has nearly a half century in news as a senior editor and city editor for national and local publications, has covered politics for Newsmax for nearly seven years.
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