China nuclear fears: US ‘deeply concerned’ as Beijing ‘deviates from strategy’

Antony Blinken confronts China officials at US summit

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And the US Secretary of State also criticised President Xi Jinping over what he called China’s “provocative” behaviour in the South China Sea, as well as its human rights record in Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang. Mr Blinken spoke out during a meeting with foreign ministers of Asian countries and partner nations, the State Department has confirmed.

He addressed the virtual meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which includes more than two dozen countries.

In a statement issued today, the State Department said: “The Secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.”

Mr Blinken also 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, the statement said.

He addressed the virtual meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which includes more than two dozen countries.

In a statement issued today, the State Department said: “The Secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.”

Mr Blinken also 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, the statement said.

Both the Pentagon and State Department have voiced concerns recently about China’s buildup of its nuclear forces after think-tank reports based on satellite imagery say that China appears to be constructing hundreds of new silos for nuclear missiles.

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Washington has repeatedly called on China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty and last month the State Department urged Beijing to engage with it “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilising arms races.”

A 2020 Pentagon report estimated China’s nuclear warhead stockpile was in “the low 200s” and said it was projected to at least double in size as Beijing expands and modernises its forces.

Analysts say the United States has around 3,800 warheads, and according to a State Department factsheet, 1,357 of those were deployed as of March 1.

Beijing says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia and it is ready to conduct bilateral dialogues on strategic security “on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”

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Mr Blinken has taken part in a series of regional meetings this week at which he has sought to reinforce the US message that it is serious about engaging with Asian countries to push back against Beijing.

Concerns have been further magnified by Xi’s fiery rhetoric during a speech to mark 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party last month.

In it, he said: “We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us.

“We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will.

“By the same token we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress, or subjugate China.

“Anyone who tries will find them on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”

Commenting, Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies, told Express.co.uk Xi’s “unnecessarily harsh language” would “backfire in the outside world”.

However, he added: “They confirm the approach Xi takes towards the rest of the world, which is that they are required to respect China on China’s terms, and if they don’t, they should be prepared to face the consequences, some could be rather unpleasant.

“This approach is worrying, as it means that there is a higher risk that Beijing and Washington will talk past each other and see the other as threatening, and thus needs to be a concern.”

Prof Tsang warned: “The risk of an unintended conflict is higher between China and the USA now than between the USSR and the USA during the Cold War, as the USSR and USA did not have areas that they felt a need to use force to contest.

“Now, China claims Taiwan and Xi expects to take Taiwan and integrate it into China, but Taiwan is a democracy and a major non-NATO ally of the USA, for which an American law (The Taiwan Relations Act) requires the US Government to help Taiwan defend itself should Taiwan’s status be forced to be changed against the will of the people of Taiwan.

“This is what needs to worry about us, and everyone in the world.”

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