London, May 9 : China is modernising, expanding and overhauling its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to compete with other major powers of the world and survive a first strike.
A leading arms control expert has said that the Chinese have realised that their nuclear weaponry has fallen behind those of other major powers and might not survive a first strike.
China was developing more flexible delivery systems, including from submarines, as well as the capacity to use multiple warheads, said Bates Gill, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
"Among the major nuclear powers China stands out in its effort to modernise, expand and improve its nuclear weapons capability," The Telegraph quoted Bates Gill, as saying at a conference in Beijing.
China's nuclear arsenal is estimated at between 100 and 200 warheads and is the smallest among the big powers - the US, Russia, Britain and France. The US is currently updating its missiles and warheads.
China now has a stated policy of never using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country and never as a "first strike". But Gill said that its static nuclear delivery system had left it vulnerable to a first strike.
A sea-based capability would "make it less likely that an adversary could wipe out the possibility of a response," he added.
The paper disclosed that China is constructing a secret nuclear submarine base to bolster its capabilities in the Pacific.
Gill said the advances China was making raised questions about whether it could be an active participant in future arms control or reduction talks.