Pentagon Withholds Critical Data on China’s Expanding Nuclear Arsenal, Republicans Say

(Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
December 7, 2022

The Pentagon is withholding from Congress critical data on China’s rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, which could outpace the United States' own supply of the deadly weapons, according to a group of Republican lawmakers.

Four Republicans from the House and Senate Armed Services Committee are asking the Pentagon comply with a statute that mandates it provide unclassified information about China’s military might, including data that could show it is on pace to exceed the United States' number of intercontinental missiles and nuclear warheads, according to a letter sent to the Pentagon. While a classified version of such data was provided, the Pentagon has yet to furnish the unclassified companion.

The letter comes on the heels of a Pentagon report that China could have around 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, a number that far exceeded past estimates. China already had around 400 nuclear warheads, a number that doubled in just two years, according to the Pentagon. This rapid expansion is fueling concerns in Congress about the Biden administration’s efforts to reduce America’s own stockpile of nuclear weapons amid escalating threats from the CCP.

"I’ve said it many times—we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to China’s growing military might," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.), one of the letter’s signers, wrote on Twitter. "The [Biden administration] must be open and honest with the American people about the threat Beijing poses to global order and our way of life."

The letter also was signed by Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.).

The statute created by Congress requires the Pentagon to provide an "unclassified determination" about China’s nuclear warheads, its ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile launchers, according to the letter. If China surpasses the United States in just one category outlined above, the Pentagon must alert Congress in a classified and unclassified format. So far, the Pentagon has only done so in a classified forum.

The House Armed Services Committee’s Republican faction called out President Joe Biden on Twitter over the matter, saying the president must "wake up and properly invest in our defense."

"China has rapidly accelerated the expansion of its nuclear arsenal," the committee’s Republicans wrote on Twitter. "The CCP is developing new and more capable nuclear delivery platforms that can range all the United States. Now is the time for President Biden to wake up and properly invest in our defense."