A recent report by the U.S. State Department reveals that China might possibly have conducted some low-level nuclear tests even though the Asian country is officially believed to be in strict compliance with an international agreement that bans such activities. With the relationship between America and China stressed out due to trade war and the COVID-19 outbreak, such nuclear tests will only worsen the situation.
The nuclear tests
“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 lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities — which has included frequently blocking the flow of data from its International Monitoring System (IMS) stations to the International Data Center operated by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization — raise concerns regarding its adherence to the ‘zero yield’ standard,” the report said, according to The Epoch Times.
A zero-yield standard refers to a nuclear test in which no explosive chain reaction equivalent to that triggered by a nuclear warhead detonation is generated. According to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed in 1996, any kind of nuclear explosive yield test is banned. Both the U.S. and China have signed the agreement. However, neither nation has ratified the treaty, due to which the agreement is not currently in force. According to a spokesperson of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization that oversees the compliance of the agreement, there has been no instance of interruption in data transmissions from the five sensor stations located in China since the end of August last year.
President Trump has been aiming to make China join the U.S. and Russia in a new arms control agreement that will replace the 2010 New START Treaty. The 2010 agreement, signed between America and Russia, limited nuclear weapons deployment to just 1,550 warheads. But if China is indeed testing nuclear weapons in secret, then the chances of such a treaty being signed or even observed remains slim. China presently has around 300 nuclear weapons and has continuously rejected the proposal put forward by President Trump.
The U.S. report also highlights concerns about China’s possible violation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). It argues that Beijing might be indulging in biological activities that might look clean upfront but may have dual-use applications, like for military purposes. The lack of transparency and openness of the Chinese government makes it impossible for the U.S. to determine the status of China’s bioweapon program.
A new UN report warns that North Korea is advancing its nuclear program and illegal trade in numerous opaque ways. The report aims to provide suggestions about how to hold North Korea accountable for violating the sanctions imposed by the UN since 2006. North Korea tested two missile engines in December last year, which the agency believes is a new phase for the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.
North Korea is also developing a submarine that can potentially carry ballistic missiles. If completed, it would mark a major diversification in the country’s ballistic missile program. Last year, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi to discuss the possibility of Pyongyang agreeing to denuclearization. Unfortunately, neither side could reach a consensus and North Korea has apparently been more aggressive about its nuclear program ever since.