The commander of the US Strategic Command, which oversees the US nuclear weapons program, warned that China is developing nuclear weapons much faster than the US, calling the issue a “short-term problem,” during a speech at a private event earlier this week.
While Pentagon officials have been sounding the alarm over China’s military buildup and development of nuclear weapons for years, Richard’s comments paint the situation as more serious than other officials have publicly stated.
“As I estimate our degree of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking,” Admiral Charles Richard said. “It’s sinking slowly, but it’s sinking because they’re essentially putting capacity into the field faster than we are.”
Richard called the development of China’s nuclear weapons program a “short-term problem.”
“As long as those corners keep going, it doesn’t matter how well our [operating plan] is or how good our commanders are, or how good our troops are – we won’t have enough. And that is a very short-term problem.”
Richard made the comments during a speaking engagement at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium on Wednesday. The event was closed to the public, but Richard’s comments were published Friday in a Defense Department news article.
The Biden administration has consistently called China the US’s main global competitor and warned of the country’s development of its military and nuclear weapons program in a series of policy documents explaining the US defense and military strategy in late October.
China is the US “pace challenge” because it is “the only competitor with both the intent and increasingly the ability to systematically challenge the United States across the board, militarily, economically, technologically, diplomatically”, said a senior defense official about the strategy.
China “probably plans to possess at least 1,000 deliverable nuclear warheads by the end of the decade,” said the Nuclear Posture Review, one of its policy documents, on China’s nuclear weapons program.
Richard warned of China’s nuclear development in 2021, calling their program a “strategic breakthrough.”
“We are witnessing a strategic breakout from China. The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking, and frankly, that word breathtaking may not be enough,” Richard said in 2021.