Home Asia China US Cold War Increases Nuclear Threat

China US Cold War Increases Nuclear Threat

by S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D

The United States is the top “nuclear threat” in the world, China has said, accusing Washington of seeking to maintain “military hegemony” over other nations after US officials declared the need to reign in Beijing’s much smaller weapons program.

Speaking to reporters for a press briefing on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was asked to respond after a top security adviser to US President Joe Biden stated the White House must “invest China in work to diminish nuclear threats.”

“Calling China a ‘nuclear threat’ is a convenient pretext for the US to expand its own nuclear arsenal and keep its military hegemony,” she said, insisting China has maintained a “prudent and responsible” nuclear policy, in stark contrast to Washington’s.

Following a foreign minister’s meeting in New Delhi earlier on Friday by the four-way QUAD alliance – consisting of the US, Japan, Australia and India – officials also issued a statement deeming the “use or threat of use” of nuclear weapons “inadmissible.” Though the remark was not explicitly aimed at Beijing, the QUAD grouping, at times dubbed an ‘Asian NATO,’ has frequently pointed to alleged threats posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region.

“China has stated our position on QUAD on multiple occasions. We believe that state-to-state cooperation needs to be consistent with the trend of peace and development,” rather than about creating “exclusionary” regional alliances, Mao continued, going on to note the upcoming nuclear technology transfer from the US to Australia under the separate AUKUS pact.

“The US has also built small blocs reminiscent of the Cold War by bolstering extended deterrence and conducting nuclear submarine cooperation,” she said.

Further steps for the trilateral AUKUS agreement, which also includes the UK, are set to be revealed later this month, with officials hoping for a “seamless transfer” of nuclear propulsion technology from Washington to Canberra. Beijing has previously slammed the deal for advancing “nuclear proliferation” around the world, given that Australia lacks its own domestic capability for the sensitive tech.

Foreign Minister Qin Gang attended the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi.

Foreign Minister Qin sent out the following three key messages. First, faced with a volatile international situation and rising global challenges, the G20 must rise to the occasion, enhance cooperation, and contribute its share to global development and prosperity. Second, we need to practice true multilateralism and follow the principles of dialogue on an equal footing and consensus-building through consultation. No one should engage in power politics or even bloc confrontation. Third, we need to promote the sound development of globalization, reject unilateralism, protectionism and attempts to decouple or sever supply chains, and make global development more inclusive, resilient and beneficial for all. 

Foreign Minister Qin also proposed to enhance macroeconomic policy coordination, improve global economic governance, and bolster international development cooperation. He stressed that China will continue to take an active part in the G20 agenda, and contribute more to promoting world peace and development and building a community with a shared future for mankind. 

Kyodo News: According to reports, the foreign ministers’ meeting of QUAD was held today in India. The statement that came out of the meeting noted that “the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible”, and reiterated the importance to “meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order”. What’s your comment?

Mao Ning: China has stated our position on QUAD on multiple occasions. We believe that state-to-state cooperation needs to be consistent with the trend of peace and development, rather than be about putting up exclusionary blocs. We hope certain countries can do more things that contribute to security and mutual trust between regional countries and that help to maintain regional peace and stability.

Global Times: It was reported that Homeland Security Advisor to US President Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said that the US needs to invest China in work to diminish nuclear threats, especially given China’s growing arsenal, the production of fissile material, and China’s deployment of civil nuclear power at scale. She said, “We need to find ways to do so with them and invite them to make meaningful contributions”. Do you have any comment on this?

Mao Ning: Calling China a “nuclear threat” is a convenient pretext for the US to expand its own nuclear arsenal and keep its military hegemony. Let me underscore once again that China has always been extremely prudent and responsible about our nuclear policy. We follow a defensive nuclear strategy and a policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons, and keep our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required by national security. China has strictly fulfilled its obligations on nuclear nonproliferation and followed a rational, coordinated and balanced approach to nuclear security. We are committed to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and help the world benefit from nuclear energy as much as possible. China values international cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and has made important contribution to protecting the security of nuclear facilities and reducing the risks of nuclear proliferation.

The US, as the most powerful nuclear weapon state, is supposed to follow a responsible nuclear policy. However, the US has in recent years invested heavily to upgrade its nuclear triad, heightened the role of nuclear weapons in its national security policy and built up a network of military alliance around the globe. The US has also built small blocs reminiscent of the Cold War by bolstering extended deterrence and conducting nuclear submarine cooperation. It is the US who is the primary source of nuclear threat in the world. The US should fully reflect on its nuclear policy, step up to its special and primary responsibilities of nuclear disarmament, and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in national security policy. The US needs to take meaningful, practical steps to reduce nuclear risks and act responsibly to maintain the strategic stability of regional and global peace and security. 

NBC: It’s reported that China has a “stunning lead” in 37 out of 44 critical and emerging technologies as Western democracies lose a global competition for research output, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said. The study, funded by the US State Department, found the US was often second, according to a Reuters report. Do you have any comments or do you agree to these findings? 

Mao Ning: China’s efforts and achievements in scientific and technological innovation are for all to see. China’s scientific and technological progress contributes to global technological advancement. We have been engaged in cooperation with all countries on innovation and sharing development benefits with the rest of the world. We oppose hegemonism in science, decoupling and breaking of industrial and supply chains. We believe that the ultimate purpose of technological advancement is to serve the interests of all humanity. Politicizing scientific and technological issues, using them as weapons for ideological confrontation and patching up coteries harm the interests of the whole world. 

AFP: You just mentioned the three-point response that Foreign Minister Qin Gang gave at the G20, but I’m wondering if the Chinese delegation declined to agree at any joint communique and it was also the only country other than Russia that did not condemn the war in Ukraine at the G20 meeting? Does the foreign ministry have any explanation on the reasoning behind those decisions? 

Mao Ning: China’s position on the Ukraine issue remains consistent and unchanged. 

The G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation. Leaders of member states made it clear in the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration last year that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues. China believes that the G20 should work to follow through on the leaders’ consensus, focus on its mandate and main function, and contribute to promoting stable, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery.

We also noted that G20 members have varying views on the Ukraine issue. We hope that G20 members will respect each other’s concerns and send a message of solidarity and cooperation instead of division and mutual recrimination.

AFP: The US Commerce Department has added new Chinese entities to its trade blacklist, including units of genetics firm BGI and cloud computing firm Inspur. Does the foreign ministry have any comments on this? 

Mao Ning: The US is once again cracking down on Chinese companies under false pretexts through unfair means. China strongly deplores and firmly rejects this. 

We urge the US to respect basic facts, abandon ideological bias, stop suppressing Chinese companies under false pretexts, and provide Chinese companies with open, just, and non-discriminatory treatment. China will continue to firmly defend the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of our companies and support them in defending their rights and interests.

PTI: Further to what you said earlier about the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi, how does China view its outcome at the end of it? 

Mao Ning: The G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was an important event, especially considering the uncertainties and challenges facing today’s world. China hopes that the G20 will demonstrate its sense of responsibility and contribute to global development and prosperity.

AFP: A White House spokesperson in the US said on Thursday that although they don’t have an indication right now that China has decided to provide weapons to Russia, they do believe it’s still a possibility. So is there any update on this matter from the foreign ministry? 

Mao Ning: We have made clear China’s position several times over the past few days. 

On the Ukraine issue, China’s position has all along been objective and fair. We are committed to promoting talks for peace and working for the political settlement of the crisis. The US has been pouring lethal weapons into the battlefield in Ukraine and heightening tensions, while spreading false and malign accusations against China. We do not accept coercion or pressure from the US. What the US should do is facilitate deescalation and promote talks for peace rather than fuel the flame or point fingers at other countries.

Reuters: Reuters has reported that Australia recently received strong protests from China after a Chinese investor had been prohibited to increase his share in an Australian rare earths group. Are you aware of relevant reports and do you have any comment?

Mao Ning: The Chinese government always encourages Chinese businesses to invest overseas in accordance with market principles, international trade rules and local laws. At the same time, we will always safeguard the legitimate and lawful rights of Chinese companies that are investing and operating overseas. It is our hope that the Australian side will provide a fair and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies in Australia.

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