In great power competition between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the threat of a nuclear contest is of increasing concern. With commitments detailed in the 2022 American National Defense Strategy (NDS) and Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), counterbalanced against the nuclear proliferation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a cataclysmic scenario could be forecasted in which American strategic deterrence is fundamentally shaken. Buttressed by defense investments and political rhetoric, Chinese nuclear strategy has evolved and has proven hugely troubling. A possibility exists in which the nuclear threshold is crossed by the PLA’s limited employment of a low-yield nuclear weapon to take Taiwan by military force. There are several scenarios where this could occur, all with varying degrees of political signaling and destruction. If China crosses the nuclear threshold, American nuclear deterrence and hard power would immediately be called into question. In response, the United States must be prepared to retaliate with carefully calibrated direct action to restore strategic deterrence. The CCP must be convinced that the United States will retaliate with a firm response and that escalation is likely. The execution of American power is not without risk, but it is required. Without both a firm response and cautious execution, American strategic deterrence would be lost, or worse, strategic nuclear war could ensue.
Chinese Low-Yield Nuclear Capabilities
The CCP has declared that it does not desire war with the United States and, since 1964, it has an openly-declared no-first-use policy of nuclear weapons.1 This has been repeated by CCP officials and has been often accompanied by the public statement that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”2 But beneath these peaceful remarks to the international community lies information about possible future PLA military strategy and doctrine. The Department of Defense’s Chinese Military Power Report cites a PRC military writing from 2012 which suggests that the “introduction of new precise small-yield nuclear weapons could allow for the controlled use of nuclear weapons, in the warzone, for warning and deterrence.”3 It also cites a 2017 defense industry publication that suggested “a lower-yield (nuclear) weapon had been developed for use against campaign and tactical targets that would reduce collateral damage.”4 China has a stated no-first-use policy, but never has the PRC faced a peer nation at, or near, nuclear parity. If it does, the CCP may heed the assessments of these PLA military theorists and defense industrialists and conclude that escalation dominance is achievable, and attempt a low-yield nuclear strike, believing that escalation could be controlled.
Several methods have been used to differentiate nuclear weapons primarily based on their intended use or maximum range. This paper explores the employment of a low-yield nuclear weapon used in a limited manner. Devices of this nature include the Chinese road-mobile, dual-capable Dong Feng-26 (DF-26) ballistic missile, which has a yield of up to 300 kilotons (kt), and is reported by the Chinese defense industry to be capable of carrying a lower-yield warhead with a publicly unknown strength.5 For context, the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima would be considered a low-yield weapon today, at 16 kt, or producing the explosive power of 16,000 tons of TNT.6 Compare this destructive power to high-yield thermonuclear weapons such as the Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) DF-5A (CSS-4 Mod 2), assessed to have a yield of up to five megatons (Mt), or 5,000,000 tons of TNT.7
Including the DF-26 and DF-5A, the PLA has many high and low-yield systems and is “seeking a diverse nuclear force, comprised of systems ranging from lower yield precision strike missiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles with multi-megaton yields.”8 The Department of Defense assesses that today, the PLA has an operational stockpile of over 400 nuclear weapons. The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), formally the Second Artillery Force, is the most well-armed and most probable PLA actor in the employment of a nuclear weapon. In charge of all land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, the PLARF in 2021 launched approximately 135 ballistic missiles for testing and training. In addition to the DF-26 and DF-5A, the PLARF has at least 12 land-based missile systems capable of carrying a nuclear warhead ranging in yields.9 The DF-17, a dual-capable, road-mobile, ballistic missile with the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, and the DF-26 are the two most likely systems that could engage in a limited low-yield strike.10 The DF-26 and DF-17 are both mobile, difficult to locate, designed to swap between conventional and nuclear warheads rapidly, and have been assessed to be able to conduct precision land-attack and anti-ship strikes.11
Destruction and Fallout
The 16 kt low-yield bomb dropped on Hiroshima obliterated almost five square miles and killed 150,000 people.12 Thousands more died in the following years of leukemia, cancer, and other radiological effects. PLA weapons equal or greater in yield would have even more tragic results. After the initial explosion, the victims would be subjected to a blast wave, thermal wave, massive fires, initial radiation of neutrons and gamma rays, radioactive fallout, electromagnetic pulse, climatic changes, and other environmental disturbances.13 Within 24 hours, local radioactive material, primarily comprised of gamma rays, would be deposited hundreds of kilometers downwind. By assessing the wind directions, one can get a general understanding of the fallout should a nuclear weapon be used. In Taipei or another northern Taiwanese city, except for the summer months, the wind blows primarily from a northerly or easterly direction. If a nuclear weapon is used here, the fallout would spread over the whole island or onto mainland China (Figure 1). In the southern city of Hengchun, Taiwan, the wind blows primarily from the north during the fall and winter months, sending potential nuclear fallout to the Philippines. The wind then shifts from the south during the spring and summer, potentially distributing fallout over the entire Taiwanese Island (Figure 2). Magong, Taiwan is a crucial stronghold for any amphibious assault on Taiwan, where the wind blows overwhelmingly from the east most of the year. A nuclear strike in this region would possibly send fallout over mainland China (Figure 3), a perilous targeting option.
Figure 1. Wind Direction in Taipei, Taiwan. The percentage of hours in which the mean wind direction is from each of the four cardinal wind directions, excluding hours in which the mean wind speed is less than 1.0 mph. The lightly tinted areas at the boundaries are the percentage of hours spent in the implied intermediate directions (northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest).14
Figure 2. Wind Direction in Hengchun, Taiwan.15
Figure 3. Wind Direction in Magong, Taiwan.16
In addition to the local fallout, more radioactivity would be deposited closer to the surface of the Earth into the troposphere because of the low yield, instead of the stratosphere as with high-yield weapons.17 In the troposphere, the radiation produced remains concentrated and closer to the surface of the Earth, which then spreads around the world. For example, a 100 kt bomb exploded in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere would result in 80 percent of the radioactive material being deposited in the troposphere.18 Once there, the radioactivity would encircle the globe rapidly several times in latitude, then be deposited on the ground within a few weeks. Due to this short duration, the concentration of radiological activity would produce acute effects where meteorological conditions like rainfall create concentrations within the latitude band. This would place additional fallout on the PRC mainland, and if a weapon were used specifically in the southern city of Hengchun, it would potentially place high concentrations of fallout over the subtropical city of Hong Kong. Unfortunately for the United States, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam could be a possible target due to these same factors. Most of the radiological fallout would be concentrated on the island and the ocean surrounding it, and the latitude band places the troposphere fallout south of China. While there are possible targets and months of the year that may allow for a low-yield attack, location and wind direction must be analyzed to predict the intended targets of the PLA.
The CCP Decision to Go Nuclear
Publicly, the CCP advocates for a peaceful unification of Taiwan with the mainland. However, it has never renounced the use of military force in order to unify Taiwan.19 While not inevitable, a military conflict initiated by the PRC to take Taiwan by force may occur. What would this look like? If the CCP decides to unleash the PLA against Taiwan and commence conventional military operations, combined with effects in the cyber and space domains, several situations could be conceived that would lead the PLA to utilize a low-yield nuclear weapon as a political tool to escalate the conflict through dominance, with the intent to deescalate.
One situation could be that after an initial assault on the island, the PLA stumbles. To regain the military advantage or to signal political resolve, China could cross the nuclear threshold, and use a low-yield weapon. The goal, determined by choice of targets and method of employment, could be to signal the PRC’s willingness to inflict unacceptable damage on the Taiwanese and Americans to get these adversaries to submit to Beijing’s demands.20
Another situation could be that in response to a PLA assault, U.S. forces respond with a conventional attack on the mainland. American airstrikes could be authorized against conventional military targets, but due to the PLA’s practice of intermingling conventional and nuclear-armed missiles, the attack may unintentionally destroy a battery of DF-26 or DF-17 nuclear-tipped missiles. This situation could play out with the destruction of an airfield full of H-6N bombers or the sinking of a JIN Class SSBN. Nuclear weapons or their host vehicles could be destroyed, and the PLA could perceive that their nuclear weapons were being targeted in a counterforce attack. This may result in the CCP believing that they need to utilize nuclear weapons before they are unable to do so.
Crossing the nuclear threshold could be achieved by utilizing a single low-yield nuclear weapon against various targets, with varying degrees of perceived severity. To be sure, any use of a nuclear weapon would be viewed by the United States and the international community as having strategic consequences. But would the president of the United States of America launch a full, strategic, retaliatory response if a single low-yield nuclear weapon was employed? The United States retains this option. But would this be the result in one of the following scenarios (Figure 4)?
Figure 4. In the event that the CCP chooses to employ nuclear weapons in one of the listed scenarios, American leaders must respond with one or more of the four listed options. As the severity of the response increases, so does the deterrent effect on the CCP. Similarly, with a more severe response by the United States, the chance of escalation by the CCP increases.
SCENARIO ONE: The PLA Conducts a Nuclear Test on PRC Territory or Over the Pacific Ocean in International Waters
This possible use of a sub-strategic, low-yield weapon could be used as a signal that an “all-out attack is impending.” If the weapon was employed as an air burst, the explosion would produce an electromagnetic pulse capable of damaging or destroying sensitive electronics such as integrated circuits, rendering electric power stations, vehicles, and communication impossible. The damage inflicted depends on the magnitude and altitude at which the explosion occurs, but a bomb detonating at the height of 100 kilometers (km) would produce a pulse covering a circular area on the Earth’s surface of 1100 km. An explosion at an altitude of 350 km would cover all of Europe or the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.21 Additionally, while both China and the United States have not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions whether for military or peaceful purposes, its nuclear weapon detonation would be met with international outrage.22
SCENARIO TWO: The PLA Conducts a Nuclear Strike or “Test” on a Small Island Claimed as Taiwanese Territory
If uninhabited, the island strike could be a sub-strategic use of a low-yield weapon, similar to Scenario One. It could, however, occur on an inhabited island, such as on a remote military outpost like Taiping Island in the South China Sea, or a civilian-populated island, such as the island city of Magong in the Taiwanese Strait. This scenario would violate the pledge that the PRC would not use nuclear weapons on any nation that does not possess nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, in the CCP’s eyes, Taiwan is not an independent nation. Further, depending on the location of the island, local radiological fallout could somewhat be minimized. But, any strike that kills Taiwanese citizens would be gauged with respect to its level of acceptable damage, with a strike targeting civilians or closer to the main island being most escalatory.
SCENARIO THREE: The PLA Conducts a Nuclear Strike on the Main Island of Taiwan
This is a possible response to significant defeats on the battlefield or the PLA being repelled from the island. If conventional means were not available or are proven inefficient, military leaders may view a low-yield weapon as the tool that provides them with the tactical advantage and an opportunity to regain the offense. It would be challenging to limit casualties and control radiological fallout in this scenario. Due to its mountainous terrain, Taiwan’s population of 23.6 million people lives on only one-third of its territory. It is in these concentrated areas that population density is considered some of the highest in the world.23 To be sure, the PLA could target a less populated area or a mountainous region, but if used tactically, the urban battlefield, which would be the most likely cause of military failures, would be the likely target. Like Scenario Two, a strike that kills Taiwanese citizens would be gauged with respect to its level of acceptable damage, with potential casualties ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands.
SCENARIO FOUR: The PLA Conducts a Nuclear Strike on a U.S. Carrier Strike Group (CSG)
A low-yield nuclear weapon is not needed to sink an aircraft carrier and its associated escort ships. Anti-ship missiles, such as conventionally armed DF-26 or DF-17, may be successful in their anti-surface role. If they are not, or if the CCP’s political goal is to escalate rapidly, a nuclear weapon may be used. U.S. naval vessels are built to withstand a limited indirect nuclear explosion, but the damage would still be significant, if not fatal. A single direct hit, however, would destroy the ship and any other vessels operating in the immediate vicinity. However, the fallout would most likely be contained to the open Pacific Ocean and American equipment and personnel. Like Scenarios Two and Three, a strike that kills thousands of American sailors would be gauged with respect to its level of acceptable damage by elected American political leaders. The loss of a CSG would be the greatest loss of American life in a single engagement since World War II, and its destruction could be regarded as an act of war. It is likely that the American public would demand a meaningful response to such a horrific loss of life.
SCENARIO FIVE: The PLA Conducts a Nuclear Strike on a U.S. Base or Territory
U.S. aircraft based on Kadena Air Base, Japan, or Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, would fly missions from these outposts in defense of Taiwan. Conventional weapons such as ballistic or cruise missiles could also potentially be successful in the destruction of these bases. A 2015 RAND study estimated that 60 effectively targeted cruise missiles could destroy all infrastructure and aircraft with a 90 percent probability.24 Similarly, 53 cruise missiles would be needed to destroy all aircraft in the open and all six aircraft hangers.25 But, the PLA may target these bases with a low-yield weapon to make them completely unusable and to obtain air superiority over Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. An extremely low-yield nuclear weapon’s destructive power may be able to be contained on Kadena, but its local fallout and other effects would be impossible to contain. Japanese civilians would assuredly perish, and this could bring Japan into the war if it was not already. In the case of Andersen, the fallout would likely be contained to the American Territory of Guam and the Pacific Ocean. But, the 2022 Missile Defense Review unequivocally states: “An attack on Guam or any other U.S. territory by any adversary will be considered a direct attack on the United States and will be met with an appropriate response.”26 As with Scenario Four, a strike that kills thousands of Americans, civilians included, would be gauged with respect to its level of acceptable damage by elected American political leaders. Its effects are hard to measure now, but looking at history, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, at the time an American territory, created such public and political outrage that it vaulted the United States into World War II and total war.
U.S. Response Options
In any of these scenarios, or any other scenario in which the PLA and CCP use a low-yield nuclear weapon, American nuclear deterrence will have failed. If this occurs, American political leaders will be faced with several retaliatory options, none of which guarantee the cessation of escalation. To restore deterrence, escalation dominance, the current rules-based international order, and the credibility of American conventional and nuclear might, America’s leaders will need to act. They will be forced to capitulate, respond differently, or escalate.
Capitulation entails giving into the CCP’s nuclear blackmail, permanently lowering the nuclear threshold, relinquishing Taiwanese independence, overturning the current rules-based international order, and submitting to the PRC’s regional—if not global—dominant power status. Scott Sagan encourages responding differently in his 2022 Wall Street Journal article “How to Keep the Ukraine Conflict from Going Nuclear,” noting, “Nuclear escalation [is] like an escalator. Once it starts, it can take on a momentum of its own. U.S. options for a military response should therefore focus on moving off the nuclear escalator while still effectively damaging Russian forces.”27 In this case, American officials could respond in a non-nuclear manner, perhaps by using another instrument of national power or through conventional means, including operations in another domain. If this response does not restore deterrence or is deemed inappropriate, America’s leaders can escalate. This would be akin to what Herman Kahn suggested in 1965 with the Escalation Ladder, found within his seminal work On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios.28 Escalation would include the use of an American nuclear weapon against the PRC in retaliation, a slippery and likely uncontrollable reaction.
OPTION ONE: The United States and its Allies Respond with Means Other Than Military Force
The United States could impose sanctions, halt trade, and use diplomatic tools to isolate the PRC and sever it from the world market and global institutions. Unfortunately, if the PRC initiates even conventional military action, most of these tools would have already been used. Leaders would be forced to apply any remaining measure available, such as convincing holdout nations, but they would be limited. While this option is attractive, as it does not escalate or immediately endanger American lives, it would signal to the CCP that the United States and the world are unwilling or unable to stand up to Chinese hard power, thus permanently lowering the nuclear threshold for potential follow-on PLA nuclear weapon use. Additionally, the CCP will obtain escalation dominance, and the United States’ inaction would be viewed as an abandonment of the Taiwanese democratically elected government.
OPTION TWO: The United States and its Allies Respond in a Different Domain, Such as Space or Cyber
Anti-satellite weapons or cyber forces could destroy or disable satellites used for communication or intelligence collection activities, hindering military action and degrading the PLA’s combat capability. Similarly, cyber operations could take down the PRC’s infrastructure, such as power stations; destroy digital data, including personal wealth or governmental records; or disable PLA weapons systems. This would signal a more robust response than soft power and provide an option that limits the direct danger to American lives. It could also sow strategic assumptions within the minds of CCP and PLA leadership that the United States may have further tools yet to be unleashed. But, operating in each of these domains has its challenges. The PRC would surely feel the impact of a counter-space operation, but it has a high likelihood of being misinterpreted. By disabling the eyes and ears of the PLA, the United States may unintentionally escalate the conflict if the PLA’s nuclear command and control process is perceived to be degraded. The CCP may believe that the United States is preparing to target the PRC’s nuclear weapons and conduct a launch-on-warning attack in which strategic nuclear missiles are prematurely launched against the United States.
An alternative, potentially less escalatory, option, could be selective targeting of the satellite ground stations utilizing conventional weapons. Cyber operations suffer from different types of problems. As Thomas Rid claims in Cyber War Will Not Take Place, “violence administered through cyberspace is not only indirect and mediated; it is also likely to have a less emotional impact…a cyber-attack is unlikely to release the same amount of terror and fear as a coordinated campaign of terrorism, or conventional military operations would produce.”29 Further, Rid states “developing and deploying cyber-attacks against high payoff targets, like critical infrastructure, will require targeted intelligence, modeling, rehearsing, and additional preparation that may exceed the benefits for the attacker.”30 Finally, cyber operations can eventually be overcome, and the results are often not permanent. Electricity will ultimately be restored, and data can be recreated, unlike the loss of human life, which cannot be replaced. In terms of political messaging, it could, like Option One, signal to the CCP that the United States and the world are unwilling or unable to stand up to Chinese hard power, cementing Chinese escalation dominance. Importantly, it keeps the nuclear threshold lowered for potential follow-on PLA nuclear weapon use. Future advances or robust preparation may make these two approaches more viable, but work in both domains needs to progress further.
OPTION THREE: The United States and its Allies Respond with Conventional Military Force
This option would mean the United States entering the war firmly on the Taiwanese side, if it had not already done so. Targets previously off-limits to American military forces could be approved, including Chinese military bases, industrial complexes, or cities in mainland China. The United States could also selectively target PLA active defenses such as air and missile defense systems, electronic warfare equipment, and anti-submarine aircraft or ships, the destruction of which would increase the vulnerability of the Chinese mainland. This would be viewed as a more meaningful response than Options One or Two and would impose costs on the CCP and PLA, including the killing of Chinese citizens. Conventional attacks could be so substantial that the damage inflicted could be greater in totality than a single low-yield nuclear weapon. Ultimately this option’s effectiveness would come down to the amount of destructive power and effects conventional force could bring to bear on the PRC. If the military costs imposed were as high or higher than the perceived cost of the nuclear weapon, deterrence and escalation dominance could be restored. If less, the CCP and PLA would observe weakness in the United States’ military strength or political resolve. To be sure, this response would impose costs on the American people. It also runs the risk of expanding the war from a limited conflict or major war to a total war. It could also be viewed as a weak response to the PRC’s nuclear aggression, as it could signal that the United States is unwilling to use nuclear force. In turn, like Option One, the nuclear threshold could be perceived by the CCP as permanently lowered and could encourage the further use of nuclear weapons.
OPTION FOUR: The United States Responds with Nuclear Weapons
In this option, the United States could respond proportionately, using a nuclear weapon with the same yield or destroying a target equal in perceived value as the original PLA low-yield nuclear weapon strike. For example, if the PLA strikes a Taiwanese city or American territory, the United States does the same to a mainland Chinese city. Alternatively, the United States could escalate with a disproportionate response to impose higher costs immediately upon the CCP. This could be a higher number of nuclear strikes, a larger yield weapon, or the destruction of a higher-value target. If the PLA destroys an American CSG, the United States could respond by destroying multiple naval bases along the Chinese coast. Deterrence and escalation dominance in either instance could be restored, as American resolve would be firmly on display. The risk of further escalation and exceeding the CCP’s level of unacceptable damage or appearance that this level will soon be exceeded could restore deterrence and stop another use of nuclear weapons. Alternatively, it could cause further escalation if neither side backs down. Low-yield weapons could become high-yield weapons, and soon thermonuclear war could engulf large portions of each nation involved in the conflict. This nuclear escalation escalator, as Sagan suggests, will likely become immediately uncontrollable.
It is essential that the CCP understands this reality. Even with the use of a single low-yield nuclear weapon, the likelihood of uncontrolled nuclear escalation is incredibly high. If the CCP approves a low-yield nuclear strike, American leaders may retaliate with their own nuclear weapon or several. A nuclear conflict cannot be contained or limited in scope. As Thomas Schelling wrote about deterrence, what makes it work is the “threat that leaves something to chance.”31 If a low-yield weapon is used by the PRC, the United States will need to respond lest it face the capitulation consequences. As Robert Jervis states, the United States may view its response as defending “what is peripheral in order to defend what is more important.”32 A nuclear exchange may be forced upon the United States and the PRC if these nations face a devastating blow in which a nuclear response is perceived as the only recourse.
The CCP must be convinced that the United States will retaliate with a firm response and that escalation as a result of a nuclear weapon use is likely. American leaders need to contemplate these scenarios and options today to preserve deterrence for tomorrow. Of the response options provided, is there a correct one? How should American leaders choose to respond? The answers depend on the scenario that Taiwan and the United States face, the level of destruction, and the political realities during the event. Should one of the detailed scenarios occur, the first thing that American leaders need to do is unemotionally analyze the CCP’s intent. Was the nuclear threshold crossed to obtain a strategic advantage, or something else? The use of a low-yield nuclear weapon could be more about political signaling than anything else, so American leaders need to carefully understand the reasoning behind the use of the weapon. As Kahn states, “the first use of nuclear weapons—even if against military targets—is likely to be less for the purpose of destroying the other’s military forces or handicapping its operations, than for redress, warning, bargaining, punitive, fining, or deterrence purposes.”33 American leaders could respond by starting at a lower rung of the escalation ladder and working up. But the CCP’s resolve may harden as they climb, and a tit-for-tat action could ensue, causing increasing destruction. Leaders could be bold and jump right to a level of unacceptable destruction, but this may pass the threshold for mutually assured destruction. Whatever the retaliation, it must use cautiously calibrated direct action to restore strategic deterrence and escalation dominance. Without both a firm response and cautious execution, American strategic deterrence would be lost, or worse, strategic nuclear war could ensue. The execution of American power is not without risk, but it is required.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force Academy, the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Image: The “Baker” Explosion, a U.S. nuclear test, at the Bikini Atoll, 25 July 1946. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Operation_Crossroads_Baker_Edit.jpg, used under Wikimedia Commons.
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 “Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races,” The White House, 3 January 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/01/03/p5-statement-on-preventing-nuclear-war-and-avoiding-arms-races/.
 Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021,” (Department of Defense, 2021), 119.
 Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021,” 93.
 Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2019,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 75, no. 4 (4 July 2019): 172; Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments,” 98.
 Lawrence Freedman, “The First Two Generations of Nuclear Strategists,” in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret, Gordon Alexander Craig, and Felix Gilbert, Princeton Paperbacks (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1986), 739.
 Kristensen and Korda, “Chinese Nuclear Forces,” 172.
 Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments,” 98.
 Kristensen and Korda, “Chinese Nuclear Forces,” 172.
 “DF-17, Missile Threat,” Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project, 2 August 2021, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-17/.
 Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments,” 65.
 Fred M. Kaplan, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020), 5.
 Effects of Nuclear War on Health and Health Services, 2nd ed. (Geneva: World Health Organization, 1987), 9.
 “Taipei Climate,” Weather Spark, accessed 14 June 2023, https://weatherspark.com/y/137170/Average-Weather-in-Taipei-Taiwan-Year-Round.
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 Effects of Nuclear War on Health and Health Services, 17.
 Effects of Nuclear War on Health and Health Services, 17-18.
 Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military and Security Developments,” 123.
 Charles F. Doran, “A Theory of Bounded Deterrence,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 17, no. 2 (June 1973): 249.
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 Eric Wang, “Taiwan Can Benefit From a Less Dense Population,” Taipei Times, 12 September 2020.
 Alan Vick et al., Air Base Defense: Rethinking Army and Air Force Roles and Functions (RAND Corporation, 2020), 8.
 Vick et al., Air Base Defense: Rethinking Army and Air Force Roles and Functions, 8.
 Office of Secretary of Defense, “2022 Missile Defense Review,” (Department of Defense, 2022), 7.
 Scott D. Sagan, “How to Keep the Ukraine Conflict From Going Nuclear,” Wall Street Journal, 14 October 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-keep-the-ukraine-conflict-from-going-nuclear-11665761260.
 Herman Kahn, On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios. (New York: Praeger, 1965).
 Thomas Rid, Cyber War Will Not Take Place (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 17.
 Rid, Cyber War, 168.
 Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 201.
 Robert Jervis, “The Nuclear Revolution and the Common Defense,” Political Science Quarterly 101, no. 5 (1986): 702.
 Kahn, On Escalation, 138.