The advancement of China's ballistic missile modernization program may pose the greatest risk to the United States' long-term security, analysts said Aug. 19.
"Deterrence of China is absolutely critical," said Mark Schneider, a senior analyst for the National Institute for Public Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "It's not the largest current threat to the United States but it will in the foreseeable future become that."
According to the Pentagon's annual report to congress, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2015," the current Chinese arsenal includes 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles and 50 to 60 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
"I expect all these numbers understate actual Chinese capability," Schneider said, noting that it is hard to pinpoint a precise number because most nuclear weapons are sheltered in a 3000-mile tunnel known as China's underground "Great Wall."