China reaffirmed this week its no first use policy for nuclear weapons at a meeting of the UN’s General Assembly First Committee.
Li Song, the Chinese ambassador for disarmament affairs, told the committee that China “has solemnly committed to no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”
China and India are the only two nuclear-armed powers that maintain a no first use policy. The Biden administration’s nuclear policy allows first use, something that was hinted at in its National Security Strategy that was released last week.
The strategy reads: “A safe, secure, and effective nuclear force undergirds our defense priorities by deterring strategic attacks, assuring allies and partners, and allowing us to achieve our objectives if deterrence fails.”
Russia’s military doctrine allows the use of nuclear weapons if Russia faces an “existential threat.” Russian President Vladimir Putin recently reiterated that this policy applies to threats to Russia’s “territorial integrity.”
Li called on the US and Russia to work to dismantle their nuclear arsenals. “We also believe that the US and Russia, as the nuclear superpowers with the largest nuclear arsenals, should continue to fulfill their special and primary responsibilities towards nuclear disarmament,” he said.
But the US has an over $1 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear arsenal, which President Biden’s National Security Strategy emphasizes. “To ensure our nuclear deterrent remains responsive to the threats we face, we are modernizing the nuclear Triad, nuclear command, control, and communications, and our nuclear weapons infrastructure,” the strategy says.