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China denies expanding its N-arsenal, claims credit for P5 statement on preventing nuclear war

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Beijing:  China on Tuesday rejected as “untrue” the US’ charge that Beijing was rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal and took credit for playing an “important role” in facilitating leaders of the five Nuclear-Weapon States to issue the first joint statement on preventing nuclear war and avoiding an arms race.

Declaring that they consider the avoidance of a war between the Nuclear-Weapon States and the reduction of strategic risks as their foremost responsibilities, the leaders of China, France, Russia, the UK and the US on Monday in a joint statement said, “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

“As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war,” the statement said.

The five countries, also permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council, said they believed strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.

They also reaffirmed the importance of addressing nuclear threats and emphasised the importance of preserving and complying with their bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments.

Fu Cong, the director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s arms control department, denied the US Defence Department’s allegation that China was rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal.

“On the assertions made by US officials that China is expanding dramatically its nuclear capabilities, first, let me say that this is untrue,” he told a media briefing here on Tuesday.

The US Defence Department said in a report in November that China is expanding its nuclear force faster than previously predicted and could have more than 1,000 warheads by 2030. The US has 3,750 nuclear weapons.

Fu hoped that the five nuclear weapons states could abandon the policies of nuclear deterrence based on the first use of nuclear weapons and make commitments of mutual no-first-use of nuclear weapons.

This is the first time for the P5 leaders to issue a joint statement on nuclear weapons, Fu said, noting that it is also another P5 leaders’ joint statement on a major international issue since the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Hailing the statement, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said the agreement was a positive step and China “pushed for the reaffirmations”, the Hong-Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

The state-run CGTN-TV quoted him as saying that China had played an important role in facilitating the countries to reach a positive and solid statement, it said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing that “during the consultations of the joint statement China made the case of including such key content as reaffirming that none of the nuclear weapons should be targeted at each other at any other state, thus playing an important role in the positive and substantive statement”.

Ma said the statement showed the political will of the leaders to prevent nuclear war and also sent a shared voice of maintaining global strategic stability and reducing the risk of nuclear conflict.

It also helps the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) enhance mutual trust and replace great-power competition with coordinated cooperation, he said.

“The five countries should take the joint statement as a new starting point to enhance mutual trust, strengthen coordination, and play a positive role in building a world with lasting peace and common security,” he said.

China has always maintained a nuclear strategy that is defensive, pursued a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, and maintained its nuclear force at the minimum level required for safeguarding national security, Ma said, adding, “this in itself is an important contribution to global strategic stability.”

As an initiator of the joint statement and a contributor to its content, China has made a great contribution to the statement, Fu said, adding that the current statement reflects the largest convergence of the P5’s nuclear policies.

“China hopes that the P5 could further their efforts on this basis, abandon the policies of nuclear deterrence based on the first-use of nuclear weapons, make commitments of mutual no-first-use of nuclear weapons, and jointly negotiate and conclude an international legal instrument”.

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