China slams US nuke review

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Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang in Beijing in May last year. China Daily via Reuters

BEIJING (Agencies) – China said yesterday it is “firmly opposed” to the United States’ new nuclear weapons policy statement, describing its speculation about Chinese intentions as “wild guesses”.

The US defence department’s Nuclear Posture Review released on Friday outlines the Pentagon’s nuclear ambitions under President Donald Trump, while spelling out how it foresees nuclear threats in the coming decades.

Although the review largely focuses on Russia, several sections are dedicated to the lack of transparency in China’s nuclear build-up.

The report says China has added new types of nuclear capabilities – ranging from a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile to a new ballistic missile submarine – “with little to no transparency into its intentions”.

The report makes “wild guesses” about China’s intentions and exaggerates the threat of its nuclear force, defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement.

China is “firmly opposed to this”, Mr Ren said.

China “has always kept its own nuclear forces at the minimum level required by national security”, Mr Ren said, pointing out that the US has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

“We hope that the United States will abandon its Cold War mentality,” Mr Ren said.

Since taking office in 2012 President Xi Jinping has pushed for a muscular China, including calls last October to develop a “world-class” military by 2050.

China’s neighbours have watched warily as the People’s Liberation Army has upgraded its arsenal with increasingly sophisticated weaponry and sought to create a more effective and professional fighting force.

Upgrades to its nuclear arsenal have received less attention, partly because of its small size, estimated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute at just 270 warheads compared to 6,800 for the US. China has also long maintained it will never allow first use of its atomic weapons.

China “always abides by the principle of no first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances”, Mr Ren said, and will “unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states”.

The US military wants to revamp its nuclear arsenal and develop new low-yield atomic weapons, largely in response to Russian actions in recent years, the Pentagon said.

Moscow on Saturday denounced the “bellicose” and “anti-Russian” nature of the new US nuclear policy, warning it would take necessary measures to ensure its own security.

Iran accused the US yesterday of threatening Russia.

“The Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new atomic weapon,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who opened the way to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers including longtime adversary Washington, said in a speech.

“The same people who supposedly believe that using weapons of mass destruction is a crime against humanity … are talking about new weapons to threaten or use against rivals,” he said in his televised address.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier warned in a tweet that the US policy document posed the risk of “bringing humankind closer to annihilation”.

Mr Zarif also said in his tweet: “(U.S. President Donald) Trump’s obduracy in killing the #JCPOA (Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers) stems from the same dangerous imprudence.”

Mr Trump gave the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated before he took office, a final reprieve last month but warned European allies and Congress they had to work with him to fix “the disastrous flaws” in the pact or face a US exit.

He said he would waive sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the international deal for the last time unless his conditions were met.

The ultimatum put pressure on European Union powers – key backers and parties to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear programme – to satisfy Mr Trump, who wants the pact strengthened with a separate agreement. The ultimatum put pressure on European Union powers – key backers and parties to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear programme – to satisfy Mr Trump, who wants the pact strengthened with a separate agreement.

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