Why America is increasingly concerned about China's growing nuclear arsenal

Chinese military ‘live-fire exercise’ in South China Sea in May

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The United States has expressed concern over China’s nuclear programme and growing nuclear weapons in an online meeting of more than 20 countries. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a list of behaviour classed as provocative from China, among which is the growth in their nuclear programme.

President Joe Biden has long strived to take back control of nuclear arms in efforts to quash unregulated weapons building.

Now Biden’s government is faced with tackling China’s growing nuclear arsenal – with experts having unearthed more than 20 missile silos under construction in the country’s western deserts since June.

Speaking to the Financial Times David Santoro, president of Hawaii-based think-tank Pacific Forum and a co-organiser of semi-official US-China nuclear dialogue for 15 years until 2019 said: “For a very, very long time, we talked about China as a future problem. Now, China is clearly a nuclear problem.

“We have known for a while that China is in a nuclear build-up situation. What is happening now is a more rapid build-up.”

Read More: Beijing sharpens efforts to ‘fight and win’ in South China Sea

China nuclear weapons

Why America is increasingly concerned about China’s growing nuclear arsenal (Image: GETTY)

During the online meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Mr Blinken urged all ARF member states to press Myanmar’s military government to end violence and support the people of the country as they work to return to democratic governance.

After the conference, the US State Department expressed concern over the growing nuclear power in China.

State spokesman Ned Price said: “The secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.”

A report by the Pentagon in 2020 Pentagon estimated China’s nuclear warhead stockpile in “the low 200s”.

USA vs China: Antony Blinken

USA vs China: The US State Department expressed concern over the growing nuclear power in China (Image: GETTY)

USA vs China: Xi Jinping

USA vs China: The Chinese foreign ministry saying it was ‘firmly opposed’ to the arms sales to Taiwan (Image: GETTY)

The study added it was projected to at least double in size with Beijing expanding and modernising its forces.

During the meeting, Mr Blinken also called on China to cease “provocative” behaviour in the South China Sea.

The State Department said he also “raised serious concerns about ongoing human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang.”

Further complicating matters has been the US’ defence of Taiwan, with the US confirming the Biden administration’s first arms sale with Taiwan.


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A spokesperson for the State Department told CNN: “If concluded, this proposed sale will contribute to the modernisation of Taiwan’s howitzer fleet, strengthening its self-defence capabilities to meet current and future threats.”

Taiwan has long sought independence from China, and tensions between the two states have spiked in recent years.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway are which will rejoin the country one day.

The US’s arms deal with Taiwan was met with anger from China, with a spokesperson from the Chinese foreign ministry saying it was “firmly opposed” to the sales.

USA vs China: South China Sea

USA vs China: Another point of contention is the South China Sea (Image: GETTY)

The statement added it had submitted “stern representations” with the United States.

Another point of contention is the South China Sea, with Brunei, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia all staking claims to islands and maritime activity.

John Aquilino, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, said earlier this month: “We view with concern China’s unlawful claim to the entire South China Sea – directly and negatively impacting all of the countries in the region, from their livelihood, whether it be with fishing or access to natural resources.”

Chinese naval activity in the South China Sea has increased, with the latest starting on August 6, consisting of a five-day military training exercise off southeast Hainan.

Despite the conflicting claims, China took possession of Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef in 1988.

In the years since, the country has built deep-water ports, aircraft hangars, communication facilities, administration offices and a 10,000-foot runway.

The South China Sea is a main trade route that sees almost $4 trillion worth of goods through its waters yearly.

William Murphy

William Murphy

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