China has surpassed the United States in its number of land-based intercontinental missile launchers, the U.S. military reportedly informed Congress amid already heightened tensions between the two nations.
“The number of land-based fixed and mobile ICBM launchers in China exceeds the number of ICBM launchers in the United States,” Strategic Command leader Gen. Anthony Cotton, whose agency oversees U.S. nuclear forces, wrote in a letter late last month to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Many of China’s land-based launchers are empty and the U.S. still possesses more intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads than China, according to U.S. officials and experts outside of the government. U.S. officials also say that America has an advantage over China in long-range bombers and submarine-launched missiles.
Republican lawmakers are especially concerned about Cotton’s letter.
“China is rapidly approaching parity with the United States,” House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said. “We cannot allow that to happen. The time for us to adjust our force posture and increase capabilities to meet this threat is now.”
Strategic Command’s letter to Congress comes after speculation in December that China surpassed the United States in the number of nuclear warheads on intercontinental missiles, according to Defense News.
Tensions with China have been rising over the past several years, with particular alarm raised after a suspected Chinese spy balloon traversed much of the continental U.S. before being shot down over the weekend.