East Coast Quakes and the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

Items lie on the floor of a grocery store after an earthquake on Sunday, August 9, 2020 in North Carolina.

East Coast Quakes: What to Know About the Tremors Below

By Meteorologist Dominic Ramunni Nationwide PUBLISHED 7:13 PM ET Aug. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED 7:13 PM EDT Aug. 11, 2020

People across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic were shaken, literally, on a Sunday morning as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in North Carolina on August 9, 2020.

Centered in Sparta, NC, the tremor knocked groceries off shelves and left many wondering just when the next big one could strike.

Fault Lines

Compared to the West Coast, there are far fewer fault lines in the East. This is why earthquakes in the East are relatively uncommon and weaker in magnitude.

That said, earthquakes still occur in the East.

According to Spectrum News Meteorologist Matthew East, “Earthquakes have occurred in every eastern U.S. state, and a majority of states have recorded damaging earthquakes. However, they are pretty rare. For instance, the Sparta earthquake Sunday was the strongest in North Carolina in over 100 years.”

While nowhere near to the extent of the West Coast, damaging earthquakes can and do affect much of the eastern half of the country.

For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.

In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.

Vulnerabilities

The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.

Seismic waves actually travel farther in the East as opposed to the West Coast. This is because the rocks that make up the East are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years older than in the West.

These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.

This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.

Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.

Quakes in the East can also be more damaging to infrastructure than in the West. This is generally due to the older buildings found east. Architects in the early-to-mid 1900s simply were not accounting for earthquakes in their designs for cities along the East Coast.

When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.

Unpredictable

There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.

Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.

The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.

The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.

While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.

Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.

The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.

South Korea Prepares to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

Nuclear Weapons in South Korea? Not So Fringe Anymore.

Don’t be taken aback if one of the hottest issues for South Korea’s upcoming presidential election is nuclear weapons—more specifically, the need for South Korea to possess its own. While North Korea has refrained from nuclear weapons testing since 2017, the progress they demonstrated in the past has moved the nuclear debate to the forefront of South Korean society. This year, Kim Jong-un’s remarks about strengthening the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear arsenal delivered at the recent Eighth Party Congress was enough for South Korean conservatives to once again stand in favor of developing their own nuclear weapons. With the South Korean presidential election in March 2022 quickly approaching, political discourse in Seoul about nuclear armament is a trend not to be ignored by the U.S. government.

Hawkish voices in favor of nuclearization in South Korea are not new. Since 2006, the year of DPRK’s first nuclear test, the South Korean public and right-leaning politicians have consistently voiced concerns about South Korea’s national security in the context of an unpredictable and nuclear North Korea. Key members of leading conservative parties over the years have often cited the tenuous credibility of America’s extended deterrence and the asymmetrical security environment on the Korean Peninsula—with the Republic of Korea (ROK) only possessing conventional weapons—as reasons to pursue nuclear options. Such options range from the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, a “NATO-style” nuclear-sharing agreement with the United States, or even an indigenous nuclear arsenal. 

In the past, U.S. nuclear experts have been hesitant to acknowledge ROK’s nuclear debate as part of the mainstream global political discourse. However, recent statements from leading conservatives in Seoul show that the idea of a nuclear-armed ROK has evolved from a fringe argument to now potentially a serious component of the conservative party platform. Last month, Yoo Seung-min, a former member of the National Assembly and one of People Power Party’s (PPP) presidential candidates, proclaimed, “it is unrealistic to prevent us from our own nuclear armament when North Korea has not given up its nuclear weapons yet.” This month, Assemblyman Hong Joon-pyo, another PPP presidential candidate, argued in a recent Facebook post that North Korea’s continuing nuclear developments have South Korea on the verge of “becoming its nuclear slave,” unless ROK pursues a “NATO-style nuclear-sharing policy to correct the inter-Korean nuclear imbalance.”

Low approval ratings of Moon Jae-in’s administration since 2020 and PPP’s victories in the recent mayoral elections for Seoul and Busan, the two largest cities in South Korea, reflect the current political climate in ROK. It consists of a dissatisfied South Korean public with the liberal government and an opposition party leveraging such sentiment to its advantage. The recent mayoral results and current polls may not offer any definite outlook into the outcome of the upcoming presidential bout, but they do preface a competitive contest between the ruling Democratic Party and the opposing PPP, whose leaders champion a dangerous pro-nuclear policy. 

Whichever of three nuclear options the country may pursue, the harms of a nuclear ROK outweigh the potential benefits. While the presence of nuclear weapons may provide South Korea a sense of security against the North, it is also likely to make nuclear weapons a permanent reality on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, a South Korea with nuclear weapons plays into Pyongyang’s view of a hostile and imprudent Seoul, fueling tensions in the region. Furthermore, North Korea is likely to view a South Korean indigenous nuclear program as a pretext for further strengthening its own nuclear capabilities.

In addition, ROK’s nuclear armament complicates the continued goal of achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a key concept throughout decades of engagement with DPRK. Past negotiations have delivered key documents on denuclearization, including the 1992 Joint Declarationthe 2005 Six-Party Joint Statementthe Panmunjom Declaration, and the Singapore Summit Joint Statement in 2018. North Korea embraced these agreements with the understanding of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as a reciprocating, two-way streak of both North and South Koreas committing to a nuclear zero. If ROK decides to nuclearize, then North Korea will have one less reason to honor such arrangements and start disarming.   

A nuclear South Korea is also likely to upset the U.S.-ROK alliance, a relationship already strained with several points of tension. Such pressure points include Moon’s impatient push to expedite the transfer of operational control authority in wartime (OPCON) to the ROK military, postponement of joint exercises for political reasons, and the broadening scope of the U.S.-ROK military cooperation on a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region and relations with China. Therefore, a new administration pursuing nuclear armament may come off as a sign of distrust toward the United States extended deterrence and by extension, a U.S.-ROK alliance already burdened by recent challenges. In pursuit of a “better” security guarantee, South Korea may ruin its current security guarantee.  

If the Biden administration continues to show a lack of diplomatic progress with Pyongyang, then the conservatives’ call for nuclear weapons for a “safer” ROK will not simply fade away.   

In order to better assure America’s ally about its extended deterrence, the Biden administration needs to re-examine the current deterrence arrangements and modify it to better address the changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula and East Asia as a whole—before South Korea takes matters into its own hands.

William Kim is a researcher at the Stimson Center’s 38 North Program. A graduate of Boston College, he has previously worked with Congressman Adam Smith and the House Armed Services Committee.

Israel bombs outside the Temple Walls in response to violent border clashes: Revelation 11

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Israel bombs Gaza in response to violent border clashes

Issued on: 22/08/2021 – 14:30

Israel’s military bombed Palestinian militant weapons sites in the Gaza Strip early Sunday in response to a violent demonstration on the perimeter fence that left an Israeli police officer critically injured, the army said.ADVERTISINGnull

Saturday’s violence erupted after hundreds of Palestinians took part in a demonstration organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory. The demonstration grew violent after dozens of people approached the fortified border fence and threw rocks and explosives toward Israeli soldiers from behind a black smoke screen billowing from burning tires.

At least 24 Palestinians, including a 13-year-old, were injured by Israeli gunfire, according to the Gaza health ministry. An Israeli Border Police officer was shot and critically injured.

The army said in a statement that in response to the violent demonstrations, fighter planes hit “four weapons and storage manufacturing sites” belonging to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and that the military deployed additional troops to the region near the border with the Palestinian enclave. There were no immediate reports of injuries in the airstrikes.

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Addressing the Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel “will settle the score with those who harm our soldiers and Israeli civilians,” adding that the military is “ready for any scenario.”

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies that have fought four wars and countless skirmishes since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in a 2007 coup, a year after winning a Palestinian election.

May’s most recent round of fighting, an 11-day war fought to an inconclusive cease-fire, killed at least 254 people in Gaza, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier

Israel Strikes Hamas Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli aircraft strike Hamas sites in Gaza after border clashes

Rami Ayyub

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israeli aircraft struck Hamas sites in Gaza late on Saturday, the military said, in an escalation of hostilities after earlier cross-border gunfire seriously injured an Israeli soldier and wounded 41 Palestinians, including two critically.

The injuries came during a Gaza protest organised by the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas and other factions in support of Jerusalem, where Palestinian clashes with Israeli police helped spark an 11-day Israel-Hamas conflict in May.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered near the Strip’s heavily fortified border, where some tried to scale the border fence and others threw explosives towards Israeli troops, the Israeli military said. ADVERTISEMENT

“IDF (Israeli military) troops responded with riot dispersal means, including when necessary live fire,” it said in a statement. 

Among the two Palestinians critically injured was a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head, Gaza’s health ministry said. It described most of the other injuries as moderate, including gun shots to limbs, backs and abdomens. 

Cross-border fire from Gaza seriously wounded an Israeli border police soldier, who is in hospital receiving medical treatment, the military said. There was no claim of responsibility for the Gaza gunfire. 

In response to the soldier’s shooting, Israeli “fighter jets have struck four weapons storage and manufacturing sites belonging to” Hamas, the military said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Bracing for more hostilities, the military said it had sent additional forces to the Gaza border area. Israeli media reported the military had increased deployment of its Iron Dome anti-missile system.

The violence follows an Israeli announcement of a resumption of Qatari aid to Gaza, a move seen as bolstering a fragile Egyptian-mediated truce to the May fighting.

Just days before that announcement, Gaza militants launched a rocket towards Israel that was shot down by the Iron Dome, in the first such attack since the truce.

Palestinians have also sporadically launched fire-laden balloons towards Israel since the fighting, drawing Israeli strikes on Hamas sites.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Saturday’s air strikes showed Israel was “trying to cover up its failure and disappointment in front of the steadfastness of our people and their valiant resistance.”

At least 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed in the May conflict, in which Gaza militants fired rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carried out air strikes across the coastal enclave.

Israel keeps Gaza under a blockade, tightly restricting movement out of the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians. Egypt also maintains restrictions on the enclave. Both cite threats from Hamas for the restrictions.

Stopping the Pakistani Nuclear Horn? Daniel 8

To start democracy in Afghanistan, we need to stop Pakistan

21 August 2021

As of writing, the situation in Afghanistan is so fluid that any recounting of the situation on the ground might be outdated by the time this is published. As of 15 August 2021, the Taliban were in Kabul and the Afghan President has fled the country. A week earlier, the Taliban barely had half the country under their control.

Afghanistan is often called the ‘graveyard of empires’, since from the British Empire in the 19th century to the USSR in the 20th, no one has managed to impose their will on the country. As the United States of America withdraws from Afghanistan in the 21st century, the country risks becoming a graveyard of democracy as well. The gains made in two decades in building a democratic Afghanistan have crumbled and fallen within two months of the US decision to leave Afghanistan. If Canada wants to do its part to keep Afghanistan safe and democratic, then it needs to step up.

The gains made in two decades in building a democratic Afghanistan have crumbled and fallen within two months of the US decision to leave Afghanistan.

Canada’s presence in Afghanistan ran from 2001 to 2014, fighting the Taliban, an “extreme fundamentalist regime[that] severely limited civil rights and supported international terrorist groups”. Over 40,000 men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces served in Afghanistan and 158 died there. It is worth noting that Afghanistan is where Canada lost its first female soldier in combat, when Captain Nichola Goddard was killed in 2006.

Over the two decades since the US-led mission in Afghanistan, more than 170,000 lives have been lost. The total cost of the mission—for the US alone—is a staggering US$ 2.2 trillion. The cost to all the participating countries may well bring the global total to twice that amount. And yet, the Taliban are at the brink of power in Afghanistan, thus, obliterating the financial, human, and military resources put into driving them out. How did it come to this?

The answer lies in Pakistan. A state partitioned out of multi-cultural India on the basis of religion, it got to warring with India within a year of its birth. Since then, Pakistan has become the 20th-century version of the quote about Prussia – not a country with an army, but an army with a state.

Playing a central role in the war, Pakistan used the aid flowing to and through it to create and nurture hard-line Islamic militants and its own clandestine nuclear programme.

US intervention on the side of Pakistan during the 1971 war led to an increasingly warm relationship between the two, which the latter fully exploited during the Soviet-Afghan War. Playing a central role in the war, Pakistan used the aid flowing to and through it to create and nurture hard-line Islamic militants and its own clandestine nuclear programme.

With the Soviet withdrawal in 1988, the Pakistani-trained Taliban took over Afghanistan within a few years and supported the terrorist outfit Al-Qaeda which launched the September 11 attacks. Pakistan continued recruiting and training terrorists who infiltrated into Indian Kashmir from the late 1980s onwards. The hitherto peaceful Kashmir valley has been a site of constant violence ever-since, with terrorists continually coming in from Pakistan.

The attacks of September 11 renewed the military relationship between the USA and Pakistan. Despite knowledgeof its duplicity—working with and for the US as well as supporting, sheltering, and arming the Taliban—the US and its NATO allies have not sanctioned Pakistan. With the situation turning dire, it is time to reconsider. Several Afghan officials have openly accused Pakistan of supporting Pakistan. In fact, the hashtag “#SanctionPakistan” has been trending on social media over the past few days.

Canada should keep in mind the sacrifice of its men and women in uniform and realise that it will all be in vain if we don’t hold those responsible for the current situation accountable. The vote-bank pandering politicians would do well to remember the sacrifice of its soldiers as well as the expense of the deployment borne by taxpayers when campaigning for votes. Any reasonable thinking about this issue tells us that the key to peace in Afghanistan is reining in Pakistan. Former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander has been vocal about this and has faced backlash.

Several Afghan officials have openly accused Pakistan of supporting Pakistan. In fact, the hashtag “#SanctionPakistan” has been trending on social media over the past few days.

In fact, multiple commentators and Afghans have posted the hashtag “Sanction Pakistan” with over 300,000 tweets to start a massive anti-Pakistan campaign. The situation in Afghanistan had been fragile for the most part but the recent US withdrawal has made things grim. Sanction Pakistan is, therefore, not merely a hashtag but an indictment of the wrong policy diagnosis of the violent events occurring in the US on 9/11, in Indian administered Kashmir since the 1990s, and spates of attacks in Afghanistan that continue to intensify post US withdrawal. The militant outfits that have directly inflicted damage across India, Afghanistan, and hundreds of fatalities on Western military forces including Canadians are merely the last mile operators of the central hub that is very much nurtured, protected and located within Pakistan and embedded in the state’s ruling arms, its government and military. And yet Pakistan’s complicity has gone undetected and unnoticed on the international radar.

The crux of the issue is that the diagnosis for the instability in Afghanistan should have effectively looked at what a stable Afghanistan would mean for Pakistan, and why despite many statements proclaiming the contrary, Pakistan’s strategic interest is diametrically opposed to anything but stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan cannot tolerate an Afghanistan free of militancy with even an imperfect but stable central leadership. A politically divided Afghanistan that cannot control its own territory suits Pakistani strategic interest in multiple ways. Primarily, Pakistan benefits as no unified central leadership in control of Afghanistan territory would recognise the Durand Line and cede claim to the Pashtun territories across the line. In addition, it may allow Pakistan, that has been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list since 2018, to potentially circumvent detection by the FATF framework by shifting militant outfit operations to Afghanistan.

It was, therefore, not surprising that the so-called Doha based “peace dialogue” failed to achieve anything concrete other than a false misplaced sense of hope. There were reports that the Taliban might agree to a peace deal if Ashraf Ghani steps down, but his abandonment of Afghanistan has ended that debate. The US pursued these talks while the Taliban never gave up the gun, but effectively, the dialogue was a way for the US to negotiate an exit out of a policy quagmire of fighting the Taliban to no end and without taking the fight to the real adversary that is Pakistan.

It may allow Pakistan, that has been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list since 2018, to potentially circumvent detection by the FATF framework by shifting militant outfit operations to Afghanistan.

In the annals of history, it is unheard of that a state that adopted terror as an instrument of state policy to achieve its foreign policy objectives has gotten away with it for so long claiming to be an ally. Pakistan—a nuclear weapon state—has not just sponsored terrorism but made it into longstanding policy that operations of radical outfits are shielded from international scrutiny in the name of a misconstrued notion of sovereignty and effectively allowed to transform into transnational terrorist outfits. And yet Pakistan’s duplicity of claiming herself to be a victim of terrorism is met with almost an apologetic international silence, a disappointing affront to those who laid down their lives in the war against terror. Pakistan has escaped liability for instrumentalising terrorism under a nuclear umbrella as foreign policy for far too long and continues to get away with it. Its open statements nonchalantly intruding into and interfering with another state’s domain, like its stated stand that “India has no role in Afghanistan”  or that “India has more consulates than necessary” signal an offensive security interest rather than a defensive security interest of a self-proclaimed “victim of terrorism”. To that end, it is willing to call Taliban “normal civilians” though it kills and maims Afghan civilians on a daily basis, act as Taliban’s spokesperson on the international stage while its foreign minister refuses to call Osama Bin Laden a terrorist.

Canada has a moral obligation to its soldiers to not let their sacrifice be in vain as well as to the people of Afghanistan in their time of need. If Canada wants to retain credibility on the world stage about its commitment to democracy, then the politicians need to speak up with one voice and act against Pakistan before it is too late.


An abridged version of the above was published in iPoliticsThe views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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reverses October vote boycottAntichrist

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Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr delivers a speech in Najaf, the Shiite shrine city in central Iraq where he resides, on August 27, 2021. Image Credit: AFP

Iraq’s Al Sadr reverses October vote boycott

AFP Published:  August 28, 2021 11:02

He says his movement would take part in order to help ‘end corruption’


Baghdad; Iraq’s populist Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Al Sadr on Friday reversed his decision to boycott October elections and said his movement would take part in order to help “end corruption”.

A firebrand with millions of followers and in command of paramilitary groups, Sadr is a crucial player in Iraqi politics who has often protested against the influence of both the United States and Iran.

Al Sadr had said in mid-July that he would not participate in the October 10 parliamentary election and would withdraw support from “anyone who claims they belong to us in this current and upcoming government.”

He reversed that position on Friday, saying he had received pledges from “certain” political leaders to reform the country and “put an end to corruption”.

Taking part in the elections is “now acceptable”, he said during a televised address, flanked by dozens of officials from his Sadrist movement.

Al Sadr, whose political manoeuvres have at times puzzled observers, in February had said he backed early elections overseen by the UN.

Militias loyal to Al Sadr fought the US-led occupation of Iraq and he retains a devoted following among the country’s majority Shiite population, including in the poor Baghdad district of Sadr City.

The parliamentary vote is set to be held under a new electoral law that reduces the size of constituencies and eliminates list-based voting in favour of votes for individual candidates.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhemi, who came to power in May last year after months of unprecedented mass protests against a ruling class seen as corrupt, inept and subordinate to Tehran, had called the early vote in response to demands by pro-democracy activists.

Al Sadr’s supporters have been expected to make major gains under the new electoral system.

His Saeroon bloc is currently the largest in parliament, with 54 out of 329 seats.

Plagued by endemic corruption, poor services, dilapidated infrastructure and unemployment, Iraq is facing a deep financial crisis compounded by lower oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al Sadr has appeared under pressure in recent weeks, with pro-Iran groups and individuals attacking him on social media and accusing him of responsibility for Iraq’s recent woes, including electricity shortages and two deadly hospital fires.

Watching the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

China’s military watch | The Strategist

China military watch

The arms control community has been gripped by the discovery that China appears to be building hundreds of new missile silos. The development raises the prospect that China may be breaking out of its traditional ‘minimum deterrent’ capability. And it raises the question of whether China is edging away from a ‘no first use’ nuclear posture.

It’s important to understand exactly what is happening and consider the broader context of China’s nuclear force development. The discovery by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California that 119 missile silos were being built in the desert near the city of Yumen in the Gansu region suggested a rapid expansion of China’s nuclear weapons capabilities. A second field of 120 silos under construction was discovered near the city of Hami, 380 kilometres northwest of the Yumen field. The two silo fields closely match those established in a People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force training area in Jilantai in Inner Mongolia. The discovery of a third potential site was revealed last week by the US Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute. The new location is near Hanggin Banner, also in Inner Mongolia.

Together, the three fields of new silos, once finished, will represent a truly unprecedented potential expansion of China’s nuclear forces, if each silo holds an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.

China’s nuclear modernisation program for ICBMs is focused on the DF-41, which will replace the PLA’s ageing DF-4 and DF-5A missiles. The DF-41 is a road-mobile, solid-fuelled ICBM that can carry several nuclear warheads as multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). But analysis last year suggested that a silo-launched mode is available for the DF-41.

Deploying the road-mobile DF-41 in silos in Yumen, Hami and Hanggin Banner, and expanding the DF-41 ICBM force significantly in the process, would achieve several objectives. An expanded force of silo-based weapons would demand that Washington consider the prospect of a devastating second strike in retaliation for any US precision strike—even if the US used non-nuclear weapons—on Chinese nuclear forces, such as mobile missile launchers on transporter erector launcher, or TEL, vehicles.

Certainly, the US could try to take out the silos, but it seems unlikely that precision conventional weapons would be assured of success, and a nuclear first strike would guarantee a Chinese response. So, with no easy way for the US to defeat the silo-based weapons and the high risk of a massive Chinese retaliation in the face of any US strike on the mainland, China’s ability to deter such a strike in the first place would increase.

This would give the Chinese government greater freedom to act below the nuclear threshold, wielding its non-nuclear sword, while being more effectively defended by an expanded nuclear shield. Sea-based deterrent forces on the PLA Navy’s Jin-class ballistic missile submarines (and eventually on the quieter Type 096), as well as the emerging PLA Air Force strategic leg of a nuclear triad, will add to this mix.

It’s possible that China won’t deploy a DF-41 in every silo, emulating an old US idea of a shell game that was suggested for its Peacekeeper ICBM in the 1980s. That concept involved moving a small number of missiles between silos to complicate adversary targeting.

In expanding its nuclear forces, China may also move towards a ‘launch on warning’ posture. That, in turn, would demand more effective missile early warning capabilities and a more effective and survivable nuclear command-and-control system. Russia is assisting China in establishing a space-based missile early warning system that would be crucial in ensuring a survivable nuclear deterrent, especially for silo-based ICBMs. Russia is also contributing to Chinese development of a ballistic missile defence system. These projects have raised concern about the risk of inadvertent escalation if China deployed dual-role intermediate-range missilessuch as the DF-26.

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists estimated China’s total nuclear arsenal in 2020 at 320 warheads, which included ICBMs of the PLA Rocket Force, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and the emerging PLA Air Force strategic capability. The US Defense Intelligence Agency suggestedin 2019 that China ‘is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile’ over the next decade. In April, US Strategic Command went further, stating that ‘China is well ahead of the pace necessary to double their nuclear stockpile by the end of the decade’. The construction of large numbers of ICBM silos would align with predictions that China’s nuclear forces will expand, at a minimum, to twice the current size. But much will also depend on the amount of fissile material China has access to.

According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, as of April, China had approximately 14 tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium and approximately 2.9 tons of military-grade plutonium. The International Atomic Energy Agency notes that about 8 kilograms of plutonium is required for a nuclear weapon, while the critical mass of uranium required for a nuclear weapon is 15 kilograms. Taking into account estimates of 200 deployed warheads and up to 320 in total, which together would consume a portion of China’s stockpiles of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, China would have sufficient fissile material for about 730 nuclear warheads without having to build new enrichment or reprocessing facilities.

The key question to ask is why Beijing is choosing to do this now. Replacing older delivery systems is certainly one reason, with the goal being to strengthen China’s deterrent credibility in the face of improving US ballistic missile defence and non-nuclear precision-strike capabilities. Large numbers of silo-based ICBMs add to the challenge facing US nuclear planners in any future war, such as that which might occur this decade over Taiwan. China may be anticipating such a conflict, and this rapid expansion reduces the US’s ability to strike the mainland without facing unacceptable risks of rapid nuclear retaliation.

Malcolm Davis is a senior analyst at ASPI. Image: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images.