China is considering tripling its stockpile of nuclear warheads to 900 by 2035, as tensions with the United States are expected to escalate further over Taiwan, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
The blueprint, mapped out by the People's Liberation Army, has already been approved by President Xi Jinping, head of the military, who has been eager to bolster Beijing's deterrence against Washington, the Chinese sources said.
With the ruling Communist Party strengthening the country's military capabilities, the United States said last year that China is on course to increase its stockpile of nuclear warheads to 1,500 by 2035 when it aims to complete the modernization of its military.
Some foreign affairs experts warn that if China achieves the goal of modernizing its military, the Asian nation could abandon its "no first use" policy.
In November, the top body of the Chinese military reaffirmed the importance of lethal capabilities, analyzing that Russia's strong nuclear deterrence has prevented a head-on contest between NATO and Moscow despite its aggression against Ukraine, the sources said.
The number of nuclear warheads held by China is likely to rise to 550 in 2027, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the country's armed forces, and to 900 in 2035, the sources added.
Worldwide, Russia owns 5,977 nuclear warheads, while the United States possesses 5,428, according to estimates from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Strains between China and the United States have been intensifying, especially after former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the then third-highest-ranking official in the nation, visited Taiwan in early August.
Fears have been growing that self-ruled democratic Taiwan may become a military flashpoint in the Asia-Pacific region in the near future, as Beijing regards the island as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 as the result of a civil war.
Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but the United States maintains substantive though unofficial exchanges with Taiwan and supplies it with billions of dollars in arms and spare parts for its defense.