After a Washington Post story published two weeks ago suggested that Karber and his team would conclude that China may have as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads, fierce criticism of the study emerged from the nuclear arms-control community.
Although the study reveals much information about China’s secretive development of what it calls their “Underground Great Wall” to protect its nuclear arsenal, Karber’s claim that China may have 3,000 nuclear warheads has been the statement that has brought widespread national and international attention to the study.
In a presentation at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs Wednesday, Karber defended the study from its detractors. Karber asserted that when the study is released, it will be clear that they make no claim about the size of China’s actual nuclear stockpile. “People are going to be terribly disappointed because it does not reference how many nuclear weapons China has. I found no conclusion on that,” Karber said at GW.
However, Karber did admit that he was the source for the high number: “Lately, me shooting off my mouth and saying ‘Well, they could have 3,000’ has created a lot of controversy. My purpose on this report had nothing to do with estimating the Chinese nuclear stockpile.”
During the lecture, he emphasized that the undergraduates’ research was “good, old-fashioned, empirical academic work.” However, one of the principle frustrations of several nuclear arms experts is how Karber and the Georgetown students used primary sources. At the GW presentation, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury College, criticized a slide, pictured here, that depicts the increase in the number of Chinese nuclear warheads over the past forty years as well as a prediction of its current stockpiles.