China’s build-up of its nuclear arsenal is the “most disturbing” development Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has seen in his decade-long career, he told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Kendall made the statement during a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Kendall, who has a 50-year military and defense career in the US, says China’s emergence as a top-level nuclear power is a major problem.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything more disturbing in my career than the ongoing Chinese expansion of their nuclear forces,” Kendall told lawmakers.
“For decades, they were comfortable with an arsenal of a few hundred nuclear weapons, which was pretty clearly a second-strike deterrent capability,” Kendall explained. “This expansion that you are undertaking puts us in a new world that we have never lived in before, in which you have three powers – essentially three great powers – with large arsenals of nuclear weapons.”
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Kendall, who graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1971, argued that the US needed to start a dialogue with Russia and China in particular, explaining that open lines of communication were an important factor in preventing nuclear escalation during the Cold War had been.
“Russia’s recent move on the New START treaty isn’t helping — it’s going in the wrong direction,” Kendall said. “No one wants nuclear war. We don’t want to go back [the Cold War] world 30 years ago. I thought we’d never be in this position again, and here we are. So we must be wise. We really need to start talking to them.”
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China announced plans late last year to more than triple its stockpile of nuclear warheads by 2035, according to a Pentagon report.
The report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” assessed that China “likely” expanded its nuclear program in 2021 and that its stockpiles exceeded “400” warheads.
“If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it is likely to stockpile about 1,500 warheads by its 2035 timeline,” the statement said Department of Defense assessed.
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Kendall told lawmakers that war with China was far from inevitable, stressing that staying ahead of the country’s military capabilities is key to deterrence.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.
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