WASHINGTON: China’s military has begun retrofitting single-warhead DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicles, according to US defense officials.

The upgrading of the DF-5 missiles with multiple warheads , known as MIRVs, was detected by US intelligence agencies within the past several months.

The addition of three warheads on the long-range missiles marks a significant shift for China’s nuclear arsenal that is increasing in both warheads and missile systems under a major buildup, Washington Post reported.

Analysts say the warhead upgrades could affect US strategic nuclear deterrence strategy by requiring a boost in US warheads in the future.

Strategic Command spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell declined to comment on the impact of the MIRVed Chinese missiles.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the Strategic Command, confirmed last month that China is making “significant investments” to both nuclear and conventional forces, including the addition of MIRVed missiles.

“China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads ,” Adm. Haney said Jan. 22 in a speech.