(Geneva) The United States on Thursday expressed grave concern over reports that China is significantly enhancing its nuclear arsenal, and called on Beijing for dialogue to avoid a new arms race.
“It is in everyone’s interest that the nuclear powers discuss directly with each other how to reduce nuclear risks and (how to) avoid miscalculation,” US Ambassador Robert Wood told reporters. The United States at the Geneva Disarmament Conference.
He was responding to press reports last week that China was building more than 100 new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Washington Post, citing an analysis of satellite imagery by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies – based in California – reported that 119 silos have been built in a desert near the city of Yume in northwest China.
Mr Wood commented that this was “a major concern”.
He continued, “As long as China does not sit down with the United States bilaterally, the risk of a devastating arms race will continue to increase and it will not be in anyone’s interest.”
The US diplomat added that this country claims to be a “responsible nuclear power” and that “its very, very small arsenal has only one defensive purpose”: “But when you see a lot of what China is doing, it goes against what it says.”
Robert Wood spoke of a series of new weapons systems that China will seek to develop, including missiles capable of reaching the United States, which have “great potential to completely change the dynamics of global strategic stability.”
For him, one of the main problems is the lack of transparency in this region of China, which does not provide any details about its nuclear arsenal.
In its first assessment released last year of that country’s nuclear capability, the Pentagon estimated it had more than 200 warheads and appeared to want to double their number in the next decade.
“We say the (Chinese) nuclear weapons program is capable of doubling its stockpile over the next 10 years, but it could be more than that,” Mr. Wood said.
“If you don’t come to the (negotiating) table, it’s hard to know what China is actually doing,” he said.
The fact remains that the estimated number of nuclear warheads that the Chinese maintain is much less than the more than 11,000 warheads that the United States and Russia have combined.