Great, Now China’s Got Multiple Nuclear Warhead Missiles?

Jeffrey Lewis
May 26, 2015

The following is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared on

China's New Multiple Nuclear Warhead Missiles

3D rendering of China’s DF-5 missile.
See more 3D Models of Missiles.

The Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power describes for the first time a Chinese nuclear missile with “multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles,” or MIRVs. For the uninitiated, that’s the ability to put multiple warheads on a single missile and deliver them separately against targets.

The Federation of American Scientists’ Hans Kristensen noticed the passage in early May and, just last weekend, David Sanger and William J. Broad published a piece in the New York Times that includes quotes by several experts, including yours truly. (I have written two books on China’s nuclear posture: Minimum Means of Reprisal in 2006 and Paper Tigers in 2014. So I guess I should say something about what it means.)

There are two big questions being asked. Does this mean China is changing its nuclear posture? And is this a response to U.S. missile defense programs?

The answer to both questions is basically “no” — although with some interesting caveats.

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