The U.S. has also raised concern about analyst reports based on satellite imagery that China is building missile silos in its northwestern desert and its test of a hypersonic missile last summer.

A senior Chinese arms control official denied Tuesday that his government is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, though he said it is taking steps to modernize its nuclear forces. Fu Cong, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, said China is working to ensure its nuclear deterrent meets the minimum level necessary for national defense, reports the AP.

“On the assertions made by U.S. officials that China is expanding dramatically its nuclear capabilities, first, let me say that this is untrue,” he said at a briefing in Beijing.

The briefing was held a day after China, the U.S., Russia, Great Britain and France issued a joint statement on preventing nuclear war or an arms race. The statement was supposed to be timed to the start of a global conference on disarmament at the U.N., but the meeting has been postponed because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The U.S. Defense Department said in a report in November that China is expanding its nuclear force faster than previously predicted and could have more than 1,000 warheads by 2030. The U.S. has 3,750 nuclear weapons.

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