China Rebuffs New U.S. Accusation on Nuclear Test-Site Activity

(Bloomberg) -- China rebuffed a U.S. accusation that it had maintained activity at a nuclear weapons test site, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying the country was upholding its commitment to the international testing ban.

In a summary of an annual report assessing global arms-control agreements, the U.S. State Department said Wednesday that China “maintained a high level of activity” at its Lop Nur test site in the western region of Xinjiang. The report noted “possible preparations” to operate the site year-round and “concerns” that China wasn’t complying standards adhered to by the U.S., France and the U.K.

“The U.S. neglects all the facts and makes wanton accusations against China,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a briefing Thursday in Beijing. “This is irresponsible and ill-intentioned.”

The Trump administration has expressed concerns about China’s nuclear stockpile, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper saying last year that the U.S. should consider “multi-lateralizing” the New START treaty with Russia. The last major arms-control accord between the world’s two nuclear superpowers is set to expire in 2021.

China has so far balked at trilateral talks, arguing it’s far behind the U.S. and Russia, which together hold more than 90% of the world’s estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons. Russia and the U.S. each have more than 6,000 warheads, followed by France at 300, China at 290, the U.K. at 200, India and Pakistan each with more than 100, Israel at about 80 and North Korea estimated at 20-30, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF -- the Cold War-era agreement that expired last year -- has also raised tensions with Beijing. The Trump administration has said it was looking to deploy previously banned intermediate-range missiles in Asia, angering Chinese officials.

Zhao cited the U.S. withdrawal from the INF treaty and as the Iran nuclear accord as evidence the country was “pursuing ‘America First’ in arms control and arms proliferation areas.”

“Instead of destroying its chemical weapons stockpile, the U.S. has sought a comprehensive military buildup, seriously disrupting global strategic equilibrium and stability and hampering the international arms control process,” Zhao said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.