As reported by the Wall Street Journal, year-round activities at China’s Lop Nur test site “raise concerns regarding its adherence” to anti-nuclear war agreements. If infecting the entire planet with the 2019-nCov coronavirus wasn’t bad enough, China’s been caught with their hand in the cookie jar secretly testing low-yield nuclear weapons, the State Department claims. Many Americans wonder what they’re planning to hit us with next.
Secret Chinese nuclear activities
According to a recent State Department arms control compliance report, China’s Lop Nur nuclear weapons test site was an awfully busy place “throughout 2019.” It looks like they plan to keep operating the base “year-round.”
At least, that’s what experts analyzed from looking at the “use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur, and lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities.” They appear to be covering up the work by “frequently blocking the flow of data” from their International Monitoring System stations.
The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty frowns on, but doesn’t completely ban, nuclear testing. It does require on-site inspections though and China hasn’t asked for any. That means, officially they aren’t testing anything. It is possible, experts admit, that what China’s working on are “sub-critical” tests that skate the boundary because they “do not involve nuclear fission.” That would be okay under the rules.
China playing for an unfair advantage
While the U.S., Russia, and China “all conduct subcritical tests” which are “indistinguishable from low yield nuclear tests,” Beijing’s activities prove the nation is “modernizing its nuclear arsenal while the United States handcuffs itself,” Senator Tom Cotton asserts. “China has proven it can’t work with us honestly.”
China denies the claims, the same way that they are denying that the novel coronavirus ever saw the inside of a lab, especially not one of their labs. “China has always adopted a responsible attitude, earnestly fulfilling the international obligations and promises it has assumed,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian noted at a daily briefing. “The U.S. criticism of China is entirely groundless, without foundation, and not worth refuting.”
Whether they are cheating the system or not, the incident underscores the need for a better and more workable agreement. According to one U.S. official, “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”