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How many nuclear weapons does China have as tensions over Taiwan grow

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Fresh war fears have been stoked in Asia after China started firing ballistic missiles near Taiwan in a show of military might.

Tensions between the two nations exacerbated following a recent visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

China sees the island as a breakaway province that will eventually be under Beijing’s control again - by force if necessary - while Taiwan sees itself as an independent country.

China stages live-fire military drills in six self-declared zones surrounding Taiwan in response to a visit by U.S. House Speaker (AP)
China stages live-fire military drills in six self-declared zones surrounding Taiwan in response to a visit by U.S. House Speaker (AP)

With global anxieties growing about increasingly frought relations between China, Taiwan and the west, we take a look at how much nuclear power China has.

China has the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, preceeded by Russia and the US, with an estimated 350.

The country first developed nuclear weapons during the Cold War and is expected to continue expanding its nuclear arsenal, having added another 30 since 2020.

Last November, a Pentagon report warned the Chinese nuclear force was expanding much faster than the US had predicted a year before.

The US fears Beijing could have more than 1,000 weapons by 2030.

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to China led to fury from Beijing (Getty Images)
Nancy Pelosi’s visit to China led to fury from Beijing (Getty Images)

China also has an army of more than two million soldiers, dwarfing Taiwan’s 69,000, according to the Military Balance 2022.

The country also boasts 5,400 tanks, over 3,200 aircrafts, 59 submarines, 86 naval shifts and just under 10,000 artillery.

The first atomic explosion  at the Trinity Test site in New Mexico, 1945 (AP)
The first atomic explosion at the Trinity Test site in New Mexico, 1945 (AP)

It comes as United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, warned last week that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” citing nuclear threats in Asia, the Middle East as well as the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the UK’s national security adviser, warned that the west risks nuclear conflict with China or Russia due to a “breakdown in communication”.

“We have clear concerns about China’s nuclear modernisation programme that will increase both the number and types of nuclear weapon systems in its arsenal,” he said in a speech in Washington at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

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