‘Complete and Thorough Disarmament’: China Demands U.S. Destroy Its Nuclear Arsenal

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 20: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference on December 20, 2021 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
VCG/VCG via Getty Images, Getty Images

The Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded in remarks on Wednesday that U.S. armed forces make “substantial and substantive cuts to its nuclear arsenal,” with the goal of ultimately ending America’s nuclear program.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian – a zealous “wolf warrior” diplomat known for spreading the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the Chinese coronavirus pandemic began as e-cigarette lung injuries in Maryland – demanded an end to the American nuclear program in response to a question on a Pentagon report revealing that the Chinese Communist Party is working to dramatically expand its own nuclear capabilities.

China’s opposition to America possessing nuclear weapons places it in line with the longtime foreign policy of North Korea, which is to support “denuclearization” by removing American forces, which have access to nuclear weapons, from the Korean peninsula, rather than defining the term as meaning an end to North Korea’s illegal nuclear program. North Korea, a Chinese client state, has since changed its policies, outlawing denuclearization in September.

China, unlike North Korea, is a signatory and legally recognized nuclear state under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. China insists that the expansions of its nuclear arsenal are not a violation of international law because they are pursued with the aim of “modernizing,” not expanding, capabilities.

The Pentagon report, delivered to Congress, revealed that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is seeking, according to U.S. information, to grow the number of nuclear warheads it possesses from about 400 to as many as 1,500 warheads in 13 years, by 2035. The prediction is based on the speed with which the Chinese military worked on expanding its nuclear arsenal and its other activities in 2021.

“The PRC has clearly stated its ambition to strengthen its “strategic deterrent,” and has continued to accelerate the modernization, diversification, and expansion of its nuclear forces, as well as the development of its space and counterspace capabilities,” the Defense Department asserted in a fact sheet on its report to Congress.

The report, titled, “China Military Power,” also takes a holistic look at the PLA and China as a competitive power to the United States, declaring the Communist Party “the most consequential and systemic challenge to our national security and to a free and open international system.” The Defense Department emphasized that China has also grown increasingly belligerent militarily in the South China Sea, the majority of which it claims illegally for itself, and that its mounting threats against the nation of Taiwan also pose a significant threat to global stability.

China does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty and considers the country a rogue “province” of China. Dictator Xi Jinping declared in 2017 that China would ensure that Taiwanese people and those who support the nation’s right to self-determination, along with those supporting anti-communist movements in Hong Kong and Tibet, would have their “bones ground to powder.”

Asked about the report on Wednesday, Zhao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, insisted that America is a volatile threat to the world’s nuclear security and demanded Washington destroy its nuclear arsenal.

“The U.S. has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It has in recent years kept upgrading its ‘nuclear triad,’ and strengthening the role of nuclear weapons in its national security policies,” Zhao said. “To this day, the U.S. still clings to a nuclear deterrence policy based on first use of nuclear weapons, and openly devises nuclear deterrence strategies against particular countries. The U.S. is engaged in nuclear submarine cooperation with the UK and Australia, which violates the object and purposes of the NPT [Nonproliferation Treaty].”

“What the U.S. should do is seriously reflect on its nuclear policy, abandon the Cold War mentality and hegemonic logic, stop disrupting global strategic stability,” Zhao demanded, “step up to its special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament, and further take substantial and substantive cuts to its nuclear arsenal, so as to create conditions for attaining the ultimate goal of complete and thorough nuclear disarmament.”

Zhao also insisted that China maintains a “self-defensive nuclear strategy” and would never use a nuclear weapon preemptively.

Despite Zhao’s claims, China has faced global concern and condemnation for its expanding nuclear capabilities, documented in multiple reports beyond the Pentagon’s latest assessment this week. In response to the Pentagon’s annual China report in 2021, which found that Beijing could possess as many as 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) accused China of violating international law.

“Overall, all states should condemn China’s rapidly increasing and strengthening nuclear arsenal,” ICAN advised last year, citing extensive evidence of China’s intent to grew its nuclear capabilities. “With the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in conjunction with many other treaties, this goes against international law.”

At the time, beyond the Pentagon’s predictions, satellite images of Chinese military facilities appeared to reveal that China was investing not just in building more nuclear warheads, but in more ways to deliver nuclear payloads.

“Over the past few decades, China had maintained only about twenty silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). But recent evidence from independent U.S. experts shows that the country is likely constructing more than 200 new missile silos,” Tong Zhao wrote in a commentary for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think tank, last year. “China’s current program to modernize and update its nuclear weapons is moving at an unprecedented speed and scale.”

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