China’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal is the most “disturbing” development that Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has seen in his decades-long career, he told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Kendall made the statement during a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Kendall, with a 50-year U.S. military and defense career, says China’s development into a top-level nuclear power is a major issue.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything more disturbing in my career than the Chinese ongoing expansion of their nuclear force,” Kendall told lawmakers.
“For decades, they were quite comfortable with an arsenal of a few hundred nuclear weapons, which was fairly clearly a second-strike capability to act as a deterrent,” Kendall stated. “That expansion that they’re undertaking puts us into a new world that we’ve never lived in before, where you have three powers — three great powers, essentially — with large arsenals of nuclear weapons.”
Kendall, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1971, argued that the U.S. needs to start a dialogue Russia and especially China, stating that open lines of communication were a major factor in preventing nuclear escalation during the Cold War.
“Russia’s latest move on the New START treaty is not helping — it’s going in the wrong direction,” Kendall said. “Nobody wants a nuclear war. We do not want to go back to [the Cold War] world of 30 years ago. I thought we would never be in this position again, and here we are. So, we need to be wise. We really need to start talking to them.”
China announced plans late last year to more than triple its nuclear warhead stockpile by 2035, according to a Pentagon report.
The report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” assessed that China “probably” expanded its nuclear program in 2021 and that its stockpiles have “surpassed 400” warheads.
“If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it will likely field a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by its 2035 timeline,” the Department of Defense assessed.
Kendall told lawmakers that war with China is far from inevitable, and emphasized that staying ahead of the country’s military capabilities was the key to deterrence.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.