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Beijing is calling on the world’s nuclear powers to expand discussions on global security to include emerging threats, after a rare multilateral pledge to temper the risks of nuclear war.
Fu Cong, director-general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department, told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that the so-called P5 nations — China, France, Russia, the US and UK — should talk “more directly” about global security.
“Strategic stability goes beyond nuclear,” he said. “Our idea is to expand the subject of the P5 process so we could discuss not only the nuclear issues, but also other issues related to strategic stability, including outer space, missile defence, even AI [artificial intelligence] and other emerging technologies.”
The briefing took place after the five nations — all permanent members of the UN security council — issued a joint statement on Monday pledging to dial back the risk of a nuclear conflict.
China’s call for greater co-operation could be met with scepticism in Washington given its recent military tensions with Beijing, something the Biden administration has called “strategic competition” between the world’s two largest economies.
China’s foreign ministry in 2021 accused the Australia-UK-US nuclear submarine deal, Aukus, of demonstrating a “cold-war mentality”, while the US and Chinese militaries have frequently squared off in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. The US’s top uniformed military officer in October called China’s suspected test of a hypersonic weapons system a “very concerning” development.
Fu dismissed US claims that China is expanding its nuclear capabilities, saying Beijing maintained its resources at the minimum level required for national defence. “We do not deny that China has taken measures to modernise our nuclear arsenal,” he added, “if for no other reasons but for reliability and safety issues.”
Fu also said he wasn’t in a position to confirm reports estimating that China is building hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missile silos. “I don’t think it is a serious business to try to calculate the force or the size of the Chinese nuclear forces based on those pictures,” Fu said, referring to satellite imagery appearing to show the construction of missile silos. “I think our American colleagues know better than that.”
China has assessed its nuclear forces based on changes to its security environment, Fu added. He cited actions by Washington, including its deployment of a global missile defence system in “this part of the world”, a nod to the terminal high altitude area defence system, known as Thaad, the US operates in South Korea.
Bloomberg. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
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