On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US has a “deep concern” over the “rapid growth” of China’s nuclear arsenal, according to the State Department. He made the comments during a meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“The Secretary also noted deep concern with the rapid growth of the PRC’s nuclear arsenal which highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence,” the State Department said in a readout of the meeting.
China’s nuclear arsenal is only a fraction of what the US and Russia possess. Current estimates put China’s arsenal between 300 and 350 warheads, while the US and Russia each have around 6,000. China hawks are predicting that Beijing will double its arsenal over the next 10 years, but that would still fall very short of what Washington and Moscow have.
The best thing the US could do to rein in China’s nuclear weapons is work with Russia to dismantle a significant number of warheads. Until that happens, China would have no interest in participating in nuclear arms control agreements. But that is unlikely to happen since the US has an over $1 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear triad.
Russia has responded to US calls for China to be involved in arms control by suggesting the UK and France should too since their arsenals are similar to Beijing’s. Earlier this year, Britain announced it is increasing its stockpile and setting the cap of nuclear warheads to 260, up from the current limit of 180.
The State Department said Blinken also told the ASEAN that China should cease what he called “provocative” behavior in the South China Sea and raised concerns about “ongoing human rights abuses” in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet. As part of its anti-China strategy, the US is looking to boost cooperation with Southeast Asian nations.