A delegation of 40 Republican lawmakers is urging the Trump administration to constrain China’s nuclear weapons program and significantly overhaul America’s own arsenal of aging nuclear arms, according to a letter sent Monday to President Donald Trump.
China is on pace to triple its stockpile of nuclear arms, including missiles capable of reaching America, GOP House lawmakers warned in a letter sent Monday to the White House and reported by the Washington Free Beacon for the first time. Beijing’s proliferation efforts warrant increased U.S. readiness and lethality in the Indo-Pacific region, they said.
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"The Chinese regime has put its aggressive nuclear ambitions on full display," necessitating an immediate intervention by the Trump administration, the lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.).
GOP hawks in Congress want to bolster recent efforts by the Trump administration to include China in the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (known as New START), an arms control pact that restricts the number of nuclear missiles the United States and Russia can deploy. As China looks to expand its program past these caps—with a particular emphasis on countering U.S. capabilities—the Trump administration can no longer ignore the imminent threat this poses, according to the lawmakers.
In a move likely to rankle the arms control community, the GOP delegation is calling on the Trump administration to significantly expand the United States' nuclear arms program to counter China. This would include the construction of advanced missile and missile-defense capabilities, as well as a complete overhaul of the U.S. nuclear triad—land-based nuclear missiles, nuclear-armed submarines, and nuclear-capable aircraft bombers.
"Powered by the state-mandated fusion of its defense and civilian sectors, China, after many years of proclaiming its minimum nuclear deterrent, has developed its own nuclear triad to directly rival America," the lawmakers wrote.
In addition to modernizing its arsenal, China is "developing capabilities to evade U.S. missile defenses," a threat that necessitates Beijing’s inclusion in the New START treaty.
China is already seeking to expand its nuclear arsenal to more than 1,000 warheads, triple its current stockpile. The Communist regime will at least double its weapons cache in the next decade, in what Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley recently described as "the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal" in history.
The White House must also renew efforts to bring China to the negotiating table, including discussions that reach beyond the New START treaty, the lawmakers said.
It is unclear, however, how much leverage the United States has over China. As negotiations with Russia over the New START treaty languish, the Trump administration has threatened to let the agreement lapse next year if China is not included in the talks. Opponents of this approach argue that the United States has little power to bring China to the negotiating table and risks allowing the most significant arms control treaty in history to collapse.
Republican lawmakers are backing the Trump administration’s stance and hope to show the White House that these efforts will be supported by allies in Congress.
Trump’s "directive to bring China to the table has only grown in urgency since the spread of the coronavirus pandemic," the lawmakers wrote. "We must compel the CCP to be transparent about both this devastating virus and its nuclear capabilities and ambitions."
In addition to Cheney, the letter is backed by prominent Republican China hawks, including Reps. Jim Banks (Ind.), Mike Gallagher (Wis.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), among many others.