Beijing has achieved “significant progress” in developing new arms but will never use them first, the defense minister says
China has achieved “significant progress” in developing new nuclear weapons, but will never use them first, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said on Sunday.
During an appearance at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security conference, the minister was asked to comment on the current level of nuclear weapon development. Wei said that in the past 50 years, Beijing has achieved “significant progress,” but is not taking part in the arms race.
“I wonder if you have seen China’s 70th Anniversary National Day military parade, and the new weapons and equipment available to the Chinese military… But we don’t engage in an arms race,”The defense minister stated.
He said that China would continue to respect its international obligations. “self-defense nuclear policy,” which means the weapons are being developed “To preserve national peace” and “avoid the catastrophe of nuclear war.”
Nuclear weapons are not used first. It is not our primary purpose to develop nuclear weapons.
Wei stated that China has a peaceful path to development and does not seek world hegemony.
On Saturday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that amid “Growing coercion” from China and its “Provocative and destabilizing military activities near Taiwan,” maintaining peace is not just in Washington’s interests, but also “International concern.” He also stressed that the US is not seeking confrontation with China.
Last year, the US Department of Defense warned that “The number of Chinese threats will surpass the Russian threats.” The statement came amid reports that China was building “At least 250 silos for long-range missiles” in three locations.
“The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking, and frankly, the word ‘breathtaking’ may not be enough,” the commander of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, said at the time.
The Chinese government has insisted its nuclear arsenal will be kept to a “minimum level” and is for purely defensive purposes.
Beijing refused talks in 2020 on expanding the US-Russia New START arms limit treaty. Beijing claimed that it has a very limited nuclear arsenal compared to Russia or the US. It is not known how many nuclear warheads China has.