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Pentagon expects to release its annual China report in mid-October

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon expects to release its closely-watched annual report on China's military modernization and defense strategy in mid-October, although the timing could shift, a senior U.S. defense official said on Wednesday.

The annual report offers a snapshot of everything from China's nuclear forces to its pressure on Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing sees as its own, and which receives sharp criticism from Beijing.

"It will be, as always, an important document and we'll do whatever we can to make it accessible to audiences and really highlight what's new there. Because it is a pretty meaty document," said Ely Ratner, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.

Last year, the Pentagon report predicted China would likely have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if it continues with the current pace of its nuclear buildup.

China's defence ministry responded by saying the U.S. was "gesticulating and absurdly guessing about the modernisation of China's nuclear forces."

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Marguerita Choy)