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China’s vice-foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu says China has always adhered to a nuclear strategy of self-defence. Photo: AP Photo

China ‘pushed for big 5 nuclear nations pledge’ to not target other countries

  • In era of suspicion about China’s growing arsenal and the Aukus agreement, major nuclear-armed powers commit to using nuclear weapons only for defence
  • Vice-foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu says the joint statement will help ‘replace competition among major powers with coordination and cooperation’

China pushed for the world’s major nuclear states to explicitly reaffirm that they would not target any nation with nuclear weapons as part of a new non-proliferation agreement.

The United States, China and three other nuclear-armed countries collectively known as the “P5” pledged on Monday to use nuclear weapons only for defensive purposes.

The five powers, which also include Russia, France and Britain, said “none of our nuclear weapons are targeted at each other or at any other state”.

On Tuesday, Chinese vice-foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said the agreement was a positive step and China pushed for the reaffirmation.

“The joint statement issued by the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states will help increase mutual trust and replace competition among major powers with coordination and cooperation,” state news agency Xinhua quoted Ma as saying.

“China also promoted the inclusion of reaffirming [the countries would not] target nuclear weapons at each other or any other country.”

China building up nuclear arsenal ‘in response to US pressure’

The statement came as concerns rise over China’s military advancement, including its increasing number of nuclear warheads, and an Aukus alliance under which the US and Britain will help Australia build a nuclear-powered submarine fleet.
There have been calls for China to review its policy of not being the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict, but Ma said Beijing would stick to the policy.

“China has always adhered to a nuclear strategy of self-defence, pursues a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and maintains its nuclear power at the lowest level required to maintain national security,” he said.

A report released by the Pentagon in November said China had expanded its nuclear capacity on land, sea and air and estimated it could have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027 and at least 1,000 by 2030.
But Beijing has condemned the Aukus alliance, saying it risks triggering an arms race and nuclear proliferation in the Asia-Pacific region.

A commentary on Niutanqin, a social media account affiliated with Xinhua, said the joint statement was a reassurance there would be no nuclear war among the five nations.


US submarine strikes unknown underwater object in disputed South China Sea

US submarine strikes unknown underwater object in disputed South China Sea

“No matter how serious the confrontation between Russia and the US, and between China and the US, have become, there won’t be a nuclear war among them,” the commentary said.

The five nations would also work to stop other nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, it said.

But it said it was still possible the P5 joint statement might not be properly implemented, citing the Aukus alliance as an example.