The United States’ “hostile policies” mean China must retain some ambiguity regarding its nuclear arsenal, and expecting Beijing to engage in arms control talks under the current circumstances is “unreasonable and unrealistic”, according to a senior foreign ministry official.
In an interview with Russian newspaper Kommersant – an English translation of which was published by Beijing on Thursday – Fu Cong, the head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department, defended China’s lack of transparency on the issue.
To ensure the effectiveness of its nuclear strategy, “it is important that China maintains a certain degree of ambiguity in terms of its numbers”, he said.
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“Especially given the fact that the US, which regards China as its biggest competitor, is adopting such hostile policies towards China and maintains such a huge nuclear arsenal, of 6,000 [warheads].”
The US Department of Defence said in its annual report to Congress on China’s military power last month that the Asian giant’s nuclear arsenal was set to at least double over the next decade.
Fu said China’s nuclear capacity building was a necessary “deterrent” amid America’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal and plans to deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles in territories neighbouring China.
“Under all these circumstances, you can’t expect China to be both transparent in doctrine and transparent in numbers,” he said.
Nuclear disarmament could become a new front in the deepening rift between China and the US, after Beijing refused to join talks with Washington and Moscow in June to extend the 2010 New Start accord, which is set to expire in February.
The US has pushed for China to be brought into any future deal, saying its nuclear and missile capabilities pose a growing threat to the US and its allies.
Fu, however, rejected the idea of China joining such talks, calling them “unfair, unreasonable and unrealistic” on the grounds that the US and Russia were much larger nuclear powers.
“China has on numerous occasions reiterated its position [on the three-way talks] that given the huge disparity between the Chinese nuclear arsenal and that of the US and the Russian Federation, we do not believe there is any fair and equitable basis for China to join,” he said.
“[But] if the US commits to reducing its nuclear arsenal to a level comparable to the Chinese nuclear arsenal, we’ll be happy to join.”
According to the defence department’s report last month, the US has about 6,000 nuclear weapons, including retired warheads, while China’s total is in the low 200s.
China does not publish figures on how many nuclear warheads it has, but according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute it was one of six countries – along with India, Britain, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – that increased their arsenals in 2020.
Fu said in the Kommersant interview that in nuclear arsenal terms, China should be classified together with France and Britain.
Despite six nations increasing their nuclear capacity, global inventories have been falling, mostly as a result of the US and Russia dismantling retired stocks, according to the Stockholm report.
America had 1,750 deployed warheads – placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces – and 4,050 in reserve or retired, while the equivalent figures for Russia were 1,570 and 4,805, the report said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Nuclear arms control may be ‘new battlefield’ in US-China rivalry as Beijing refuses to join treaty talks
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- Chinese military: Rocket Force drills prepare for possible US nuclear weapons attack
- China may outmatch American military in missile development and shipbuilding, says US Defence Department report
- China-US relations: Beijing slams Pentagon report, blames Taipei for stirring up regional tensions
This article American hostility means China can’t come clean on its nuclear arsenal, Beijing official says first appeared on South China Morning Post