New Delhi: China is in the middle of significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear arsenal, a report released by a Swedish watchdog tracking arms trade and disarmament has said.

China maintains at least 350 nuclear warheads, more than double of India’s 160, many fewer than the US and Russia, and has rapidly expanded its launch capabilities in recent years, said Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

 “Since around 2017, China has started to put in place a triad of nuclear forces – solid-fuelled mobile and siloed land-based missiles, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), and bombers with a full, re-established nuclear mission – in order to strengthen its nuclear deterrence and counterstrike capabilities in response to what it sees as a growing threat from other countries,” SIPRI said in the report released on Monday.

The report said the ratio of stockpiled and stored warheads has changed because additional and new launchers became operational in 2021.

“These warheads have been assigned to China’s operational land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and to nuclear-configured aircraft,” the annual Sipri report, titled Armament, Disarmament and International Security, said.

The report was released a day after Chinese defence minister, Wei Fenghe, hailed his country’s progress in “nuclear deterrence” in a speech at the just-concluded Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore.

“China has developed its capabilities for over five decades. It’s fair to say there has been impressive progress,” he said.

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