Beijing may have secretly conducted low-level underground nuclear tests despite its pledge to stick to an international agreement banning such explosions, The Wall Street Journal cited a yet-to-be-published State Department report as saying.
Although the document did not provide any hard evidence, it referred to an array of activities that the report claimed raise fears China might not be adhering to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
“China’s possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur, and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities […] raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard”, the report argued.
The Wall Street Journal cited a spokeswoman for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which checks compliance with the pact, as saying that there had been no interruptions in data transmissions from China’s five sensor stations since September 2019.
The newspaper also quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying that China’s suspected nuclear testing activities come amid President Donald Trump’s drive to prod China to join the US and Russia’s talks on an arms control agreement that may replace the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) which expires in February 2021.
“The pace and manner by which the Chinese government is modernising its stockpile is worrying, destabilising, and illustrates why China should be brought into the global arms control framework”, the official claimed.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has, meanwhile, responded to the State Department report by emphasizing that Beijing remains committed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, with spokesman Zhao Lijian rejecting US accusations as false.
The CTBT was concluded in 1996 but never entered into force because eight countries, including China and the US, did not ratify the document even though both Beijing and Washington have repeatedly signaled their readiness to stick to the treaty’s terms.