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Home World News Washington Post World News US general warns of China’s growing nuclear arsenal

US general warns of China’s growing nuclear arsenal


President Biden’s candidate to take over the US military’s nuclear arsenal and missile defense operations warned on Thursday that China’s emergence as a nuclear power poses historic threats and challenges that require a re-evaluation of current policies.

Air Force General Anthony Cotton, who appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, told lawmakers reviewing his nomination to head the US Strategic Command that the military’s assessment of China’s nuclear prowess had changed dramatically since 2018, when Beijing was rated as “minimal nuclear deterrent”. At the time, the Pentagon’s nuclear stance review rated China’s ambitions as oriented toward “regional hegemony,” he explained.

That impression began to change in recent years, as China made concerted efforts to expand its nuclear capabilities and stepped up its aggressive stance toward the United States and its regional allies.

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The latest review of the Pentagon’s nuclear stance was sent to Congress in March and has not yet been made public, but Cotton appeared to foreshadow some of his top findings during Thursday’s testimony.

“We’ve seen the incredible expanse of what they’re doing with their nuclear power — which doesn’t reflect minimal deterrence in my opinion. They’ve got a bona fide triad now,” explained Cotton, meaning the Chinese military has nuclear weapons on land. operating in the air and at sea.

The nuclear threat posed by China, he added, cannot be adequately addressed by duplicating the approach the United States has taken toward Russia, whose nuclear targets are known to the United States and date back decades to the Cold War. . Beijing and Moscow, the general said, “act differently, from the perspective of a doctrine.”

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After years of racing each other to build their nuclear arsenals, the United States and the former Soviet Union signed several arms reduction pacts in the latter part of the 20th century. Only one of those treaties – the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which applies to intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear bombers – remains in force.

Historically, Beijing did not possess the arsenal of the two great Cold War superpowers, nor were its nuclear ambitions in Washington viewed with the same intensity as those of Moscow. China was also never a party to the arms control regimes that defined the nuclear relationship between the United States and Russia — a fact that politicians and proponents say should be remedied in the future.

“We should seriously consider entering a new, trilateral era of nuclear competition,” the committee chair, Senator Jack Reed (DR.I.) told Cotton. “You are responsible for continuing to ensure that the United States and its allies can deter not one, but two near-colleagues nuclear adversaries, something your predecessors did not have to deal with.”

Cotton gave no details about his plans to update the military’s approach to China, but he acknowledged that there was work to be done to correct the imbalance.

“We understand Russia’s nuclear theory and doctrine,” Cotton said, citing President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert days after the invasion of Ukraine — a move largely met with indifference. welcomed by the Pentagon, and one who has so far not led to a direct attack on NATO.

“We will need to better understand China’s nuclear strategy,” he added.

However, Cotton was firm in the assessment that “Ultimately, Russia and China both understand that we have a strong, resilient nuclear force that will provide us with deterrence and deter our enemies even more.”

But the United States must seriously threats from Moscow or Beijing to use nuclear weapons, the general said – especially when it comes to potential confrontation over Taiwan.

“If you have a credible deterrent, they would think twice before doing business with us,” Cotton noted.

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Some senators challenged Cotton to say not only what he would do to expand and update the military’s portfolio of nuclear weapons, but also how he would ensure that US proliferation did not spiral out of control.

sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hi.) asked Cotton to say whether he agreed with the Biden administration’s recommendation to scrap the development of low-yield naval-launched nuclear weapons. cruise missiles about concerns about the program’s cost and efficiency.

That stance, which government officials said was informed by the most recent assessment of the nuclear stance, has sparked some controversy, with some fearing that the program’s cancellation will negatively impact the US military’s ability to compete with its opponents’ nuclear capabilities.

Earlier this year, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark A. Milley publicly sided with those who criticized Biden’s decision. When asked for his opinion Thursday, Cotton objected, saying he wanted a chance to completely overhaul the program after his expected confirmation.

But when Hirono asked Cotton if he believes… the United States play a role in curbing the nuclear arms race, he replied, “Yes.”

“Whatever treaty we could do to prevent proliferation is fine, with one caveat: It covers every aspect of what the signing agreement would be. Weapons that are not currently seen as strategic weapons should be added to that calculus,” Cotton explained, before concluding, “I am for any treaty that would prevent proliferation around the world.”

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