WASHINGTON – Monday evening, news broke of a discovery by the Federation of American Scientists that China is building a second nuclear silo field in Eastern Xinjiang. This second public report in as many months appears to confirm the Chinese government is undertaking a significant expansion of its nuclear arsenal, which is currently estimated at 300 weapons. Whether or not all of these new silos will house new missiles, this latest development threatens to accelerate a multifaceted arms race with Russia and the United States, and heighten risks of nuclear conflict and miscalculation.
In response to this news, Derek Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the international Global Zero movement, released the following statement:
“The one firm lesson of the Cold War arms race is that there’s no way to build up to stability or security. And yet today, in every region of the world, governments ignore this warning as they chase the false security of nuclear deterrence and overmatch. This is not just a China problem. The United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and others are all taking significant steps to expand, enhance, or further operationalize their nuclear arsenals. Across the board, nuclear-armed powers are moving in the wrong direction and relying increasingly on these weapons as the basis for their security.
“But stability and security cannot be achieved through threats of mass destruction. This is a road that leads only to terror and ruin, and it’s ordinary people who will pay the price.
“The Chinese government’s efforts to expand their capabilities are troubling, but they’re not happening in a vacuum. Major economies around the world continue to divert massive resources into weapons systems that could kill billions of people, even as their populations struggle with the devastating human and financial toll of COVID-19.
“Serious and sustained dialogue to reduce and ultimately eliminate the risks posed by nuclear weapons is long overdue — and the only way out of this mess. Global Zero calls on the United States and China to initiate high-level talks to enhance stability and avert a nuclear arms race that will undermine national and global security. This should be backed up by renewed efforts by the global community to overcome long-standing and unacceptable resistance by the Chinese government to enhance transparency and predictability of their nuclear activities.
“U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s recent visit to China is encouraging, but it must be quickly followed by discussions between the leaders of both countries and an invitation to begin direct talks on issues related to strategic stability and risk reduction measures. These talks should include both political and military leaders, and aim to produce specific steps each government can take to reduce the size of their arsenals, the salience of nuclear weapons in security policy, and the risk of confrontation and escalation in the Pacific.
“The United States and Russia recently reaffirmed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Every effort must be made to universalize this truth among all nuclear-armed states. Revelations about China’s new nuclear activities only add to the imperative that we transform this understanding into a fundamental animating principle of foreign policy and global security.”