Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rumors Of War: China Aggressively Developing Next Generation Of Nuclear Weapons

China steps up pace in new nuclear arms race with US and Russia as experts warn of rising risk of conflict

China is aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons, conducting an average of five tests a month to simulate nuclear blasts, according to a major Chinese weapons research institute.

Its number of simulated tests has in recent years outpaced that of the United States, which conducts them less than once a month on average.

Between September 2014 and last December, China carried out around 200 laboratory experiments to simulate the extreme physics of a nuclear blast, the China Academy of Engineering Physics reported in a document released by the government earlier this year and reviewed by the South China Morning Post this month.

In comparison, the US carried out only 50 such tests between 2012 and 2017 – or about 10 a year – according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

As China joins the US and Russia in pursuing more targeted nuclear weapons as a deterrent against potential threats, the looming arms race would in fact serve the opposite purpose by increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict, experts warn.
Pentagon officials have said the US wants its enemies to believe it might actually use its new-generation weapons, such as smaller, smarter tactical warheads designed to limit damage by destroying only specific targets.

But with these relatively safer and less destructive weapons in hand, governments may end up losing the inhibition to use them.
“The use of small warheads will lead to the use of bigger ones,” Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Post.
Still, despite China being highly unlikely to actually deploy its nuclear weapons, it remained necessary to develop them, he said.

“If other countries use nuclear weapons on us, we have to retaliate. This is probably why there is research to develop new weapons.”
Although an international ban prevents nuclear weapons from being tested – with high-profile exceptions like North Korea – the major nuclear powers have been able to continue conducting simulated tests.

In tunnels deep under mountains in Mianyang, southwestern Sichuan province, where China’s main nuclear design facilities are based, loud blasts from these experiments can be heard more than once a week.
In comparison, between 2003 and 2017, the US fired a total of 150 simulated shots at its Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (Jasper) facility at the Nevada National Security Site.

China has likely surpassed the US in some important areas in nuclear weapons research, according to Luo Guoqiang, another researcher at the lab.
“Part of the drive comes from technical breakthroughs, and part from increased financial support from the government,” Luo said.

These new weapons are considered more “usable” for tactical tasks such as destroying an underground bunker while generating little radioactive fallout.
And while they are not as destructive and cannot obliterate entire cities like their predecessors could, they are still far more powerful than conventional weapons.

In February, soon after the US announced its new nuclear weapons policy, Chinese state-run tabloid Global Timespublished an editorial saying that China would seriously consider going public with its low-yield nuclear weapons programme as a response to the new nuclear arms race.
“China is a nation capable of massively increasing the size and improving the technology of its nuclear stockpiles,” stated the newspaper, known for its stridently nationalistic tone.

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