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 and called the issue a “near-term issue”, speaking at a closed-door event this week.
While Pentagon officials have been sounding the alarm over China’s military build-up and development of nuclear weapons for years, Richard’s comments paint a more serious picture of the situation than other officials have publicly indicated.
“As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking,” said Adm. Charles Richard. “It’s sinking in slowly, but it’s sinking in because they’re basically putting capabilities in the field faster than we are.”
Richard called the development of China’s nuclear weapons program a “near-term issue.”
“As long as those curves keep going, it doesn’t matter how good ours is [operating plan] or how good our commanders are, or how good our forces are – we will not have enough. And that is a very near-term problem.”
Richard made the comments during a speech at the Naval Submarine League Annual Symposium on Wednesday. The event was closed to the public, but Richard’s comments were published in a Defense Department news release on Friday.
The Biden administration has consistently called China the US’s main global competitor and has warned about the country’s development of its military and nuclear weapons programs in a series of policy documents outlining US defense and military strategy released in late October.
China is the U.S.’s “pace challenge” because it is “the only competitor with the intent and the growing ability to systematically challenge the U.S. militarily, economically, technologically, diplomatically,” a senior defense official said of the strategy. .
China is “likely to have at least 1,000 warheads on hand by the end of the decade,” said the Nuclear Posture Review, one of the policy papers on China’s nuclear weapons program.
Richard warned of China’s nuclear development in 2021, calling their program a “strategic breach”.
“We are witnessing a strategic breakdown of China. The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I consider unparalleled, and frankly that word breathing space may not be enough,” Richard said in 2021.