Washington’s policies increase the risk of nuclear war, even as it accuses Beijing of undermining stability, the military says
A new Pentagon assessment of China’s military capabilities and strategy contains “groundless speculation,” including about Beijing’s nuclear development plans, a Chinese military spokesman has said. The US is increasing the risk of conflict by sharing nuclear technology with Australia, he added.
The US military “vigorously develops and seeks to deploy tactical nuclear weapons at the forefront, lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, and promotes nuclear proliferation through the US-UK-Australia trilateral security partnership,” Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry, said on Tuesday. “It has increasingly become the source of nuclear tensions.”
The official was referring to the AUKUS alliance, which was launched last year. The agreement involves the sharing of nuclear propulsion technology by the US with Australia so it can have a fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines. The reactors of the boats will need to be loaded with highly enriched uranium, which poses proliferation concerns, according to critics.
Tan Kefei said China maintains a purely defensive nuclear stance and has an arsenal required for deterrence. Unlike the US, it has a strict no-first-use policy, he noted, meaning that Beijing pledges not to use its atomic weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.
The nuclear posture of the US states that limiting the role of American atomic weapons to deterrence against and retaliation for a nuclear strike would pose “an unacceptable level of risk” due to the “non-nuclear capabilities” that the country’s opponents have.
The Chinese official made the remarks in response to the Pentagon’s update of its assessment of Chinese military capabilities, which was released last week. The document predicted that by 2035, Beijing may expand its nuclear arsenal to 1,500 warheads from the current estimated level of 400.
China is “reluctant to discuss” its “developing nuclear, space, and cyberspace capabilities, negatively impacting global strategic stability” the report claimed.
Tan stated that China “will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion,” unlike the US, which has “fanned the flames everywhere for its own self-interest, creating divisions and confrontations in the world, and bringing turmoil and disasters wherever it went.” Beijing urges Washington to abandon its Cold War mentality and correct its misconceptions about China, the military spokesman added.