Satellite images expose China’s nuclear push, show Beijing building silos to hold over 100 ICMBs in Gobi desert
The location of the construction site is along the once strategic Silk Road in an area that houses 1,70,000 people.
Over a year after Chinese forces clashed with the Indian Army in Eastern Ladakh, a new report hints at Beijing’s quiet push toward bolstering its nuclear arsenal. China has reportedly begun the construction of over 100 silos to hold Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in a desert near the northwestern city of Yumen.
The construction signals a major expansion in the nuclear capabilities of Beijing, which already has a stockpile of 250 to 350 nuclear weapons.
The construction was captured in new commercial satellite images of remote areas west and southwest of Yumen on the edge of the Gobi Desert. The images, released by The Washington Post, show excavations, long trenches and surface structure among other features similar to those seen at existing nuclear launch facilities. Researchers compared images taken during the past four months with new images from past weeks to establish the sudden development.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on China’s nuclear program, told The New York Times that it was a recognisable design and it is hard to imagine it’s anything else. The new buildup could spark concerns across the board from Delhi to Washington, which has been pushing against the expansionary policies of Beijing under President Xi Jinping.
“We encourage Beijing to engage with us on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing tensions. This buildup — it is concerning, the Washington Post quoted US State Department’s spokesman, Ned Price as saying. The Pentagon has been raising alarms against China’s plans to push its nuclear arsenal.
The location of the construction site is along the once strategic Silk Road in an area that houses 1,70,000 people. The Washington Post reported that each site is separated from its neighbour by about two miles, and many of the sites are concealed by a large, dome-like covering. While at sites that are not under a dome-like covering, workers can be seen excavating a characteristic circular-shaped pit in the desert floor.
Lewis pointed out that silos are probably being constructed to house a Chinese ICBM known as the DF-41, which can carry multiple warheads to a distance as far as nearly 15,000 kilometres. The distances put countries like India, Taiwan and even the US mainland within its reach.
The new images come on the heels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrating its 100th anniversary with Xi saying that the Chinese people will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us. “Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
Satellite imagery has long been used to identify such spots that could be prominent to geopolitical development. Similar imagery had exposed China’s buildup in eastern Ladakh showing military tanks, bunkers and soldiers patrolling in the region.