Report: State Department Thinks China May Have Conducted Banned Nuclear Tests

Xi Jinping, China
Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP

The U.S. State Department compiled a report the Wall Street Journal claimed to obtain on Wednesday that found China may have conducted underground nuclear tests in defiance of international treaties.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) angrily denied the report’s findings as “totally unfounded,” without offering any evidence to dispute them.

The State Department report, an unclassified review of how well various nations are complying with nuclear arms agreements, has not been officially released yet. The WSJ obtained an early look and said it “cites an array of activities that ‘raise concerns’ that Beijing might not be complying with the ‘zero-yield’ nuclear-weapons testing ban.”

According to the WSJ, the U.S. is especially concerned about activity at the Lop Nur nuclear test site in China that would be difficult to explain as anything but nuclear test activity, including “extensive excavations” and the reactivation of test chambers.

“Another factor feeding U.S. suspicions is the interruption in past years of data transmissions from monitoring stations on Chinese territory that are designed to detect radioactive emissions and seismic tremors,” the WSJ reported. In essence, U.S. investigators grew suspicious when China shut down the sensors that would have detected radiation from low-yield nuclear explosions at underground test sites.

Such underground nuclear tests would be prohibited under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996, which was never formally ratified, but is purportedly observed by most major powers, including the United States and China. The WSJ noted that Russia is also suspected by U.S. intelligence of violating the treaty with secret low-yield nuclear tests in the Arctic.

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization said the sensors in question have been transmitting data steadily since last September and excused service interruptions in 2018 on the grounds that China was still conducting “ongoing negotiations on post-certification activity contracts.”

This would excuse the interruptions without denying they occurred or offering any concrete theories as to why. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), five key Chinese sensor stations stopped forwarding data to Vienna sometime in 2019 and did not resume until September 2019. That seems like plenty of time to do exactly what the State Department believes China was doing at Lop Nur.

“The pace and manner by which the Chinese government is modernizing its stockpile is worrying, destabilizing, and illustrates why China should be brought into the global arms control framework,” said a senior U.S. official quoted by the SCMP. 

The official noted the Trump administration wants China to join the U.S. and Russia in negotiating a new arms control accord that would more comprehensively address American concerns. China has refused these requests by insisting its nuclear program is tiny and purely defensive in nature.

Also excusing without explaining was executive director Daryl Kimball of the non-governmental Arms Control Association, who told the WSJ that the U.S. should push to fully ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and urge China to do likewise so that signatory nations would “have the option to demand intrusive, short-notice on-site inspections.” Six other recalcitrant countries would have to join the U.S. and Beijing in ratifying the treaty for it to become law.

The Epoch Times noted on Thursday that reflective acceptance of China’s claims of innocence by critics of the Trump administration’s approach to the nuclear issue is extremely odd since hard evidence is mounting that China lied repeatedly about the Wuhan coronavirus, with deadly consequences for the entire world. 

The Epoch Times also pointed out that the forthcoming State Department report allegedly expresses concerns about China’s biological weapons programs, which include a good deal of “dual-use” projects that could involve either legitimate medical research or bio-warfare applications. The anti-communist newspaper claimed to have obtained a separate copy of the report from the Wall Street Journal, and the latter newspaper did not publish these alleged snippets.

U.S. intelligence reportedly said Beijing’s secrecy and dishonesty prevent it from determining if Chinese bio-warfare programs have been eliminated as required under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

“The United States continues to note that the voluntary BWC CBM declarations China has submitted have neither documented that offensive program, nor documented that China has eliminated the program or any remaining biological munitions in accordance with Article II of the BWC,” reads an alleged passage of the report quoted by the Epoch Times.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian – the same Communist Party functionary who became infamous for spreading conspiracy theories that the Wuhan virus was created in American military laboratories – insisted on Thursday that the alleged State Department report is filled with “totally unfounded counter-charges that confuse right and wrong.”

“China has always performed its international obligations and commitments in a responsible manner, firmly upheld multilateralism, and actively carried out international cooperation. The U.S. accusation against China is made of thin air, which is totally unfounded and not worth refuting,” said Zhao.

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