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China Blasts US Report, 'No 1st Use'   12/06 06:04

   

   BEIJING (AP) -- China strictly adheres to its policy of no first use of 
nuclear weapons "at any time and under any circumstances," its Defense Ministry 
said Tuesday in a scathing response to a U.S. report alleging a major buildup 
in Beijing's nuclear capabilities.

   The Pentagon last week released an annual China security report that warned 
Beijing would likely have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, and that it has 
provided no clarity on how it plans to use them.

   That report "distorts China's national defense policy and military strategy, 
makes groundless speculation about China's military development and grossly 
interferes in China's internal affairs on the issue of Taiwan," ministry 
spokesperson Tan Kefei said in a statement.

   Tan accused the U.S. of being the "biggest troublemaker and destroyer of 
world peace and stability," and repeated that Beijing has never renounced the 
use of force to conquer self-governing Taiwan, a U.S. ally that China considers 
part of its territory.

   Tan did not directly address the report's allegations about a Chinese 
nuclear buildup, but blamed the U.S. for raising nuclear tensions, particularly 
with its plan to help Australia build a fleet of submarines powered by U.S. 
nuclear technology, which the French president has described as a 
"confrontation with China."

   Australia has said it will not seek to arm the submarines with nuclear 
weapons. Tan also accused the U.S. of having the world's largest nuclear 
arsenal, although that title is actually held by Russia, a close Chinese 
military, economic and diplomatic partner.

   As of 2022, Russia possesses a total of 5,977 nuclear warheads compared to 
5,428 in the U.S. inventory, according to the Federation of American 
Scientists. China currently has 350 nuclear warheads, according to the 
federation.

   China has long adhered to what it calls a purely defensive national security 
strategy, including a claim that it will never be the first to use nuclear 
weapons in a conflict. That stance has frequently been challenged at home and 
abroad, particularly if it comes to a confrontation over Taiwan.

   "What needs to be emphasized is that China firmly pursues the nuclear 
strategy of self-defense and defense, always adheres to the policy of no first 
use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and maintains 
its nuclear force at the minimum level required for national security," Tan 
said in the statement, which was posted on the ministry's website.

   His remarks came days after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the 
U.S. is at a pivotal point with China and will need military strength to ensure 
that American values, not Beijing's, set global norms in the 21st century.

   Austin's speech Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum capped a week 
in which the Pentagon was squarely focused on China's rise and what that might 
mean for America's position in the world.

   China "is the only country with both the will and, increasingly, the power 
to reshape its region and the international order to suit its authoritarian 
preferences," Austin said. "So let me be clear: We will not let that happen."

   Austin was on hand Friday for a dramatic nighttime rollout of the U.S. 
military's newest nuclear stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, which is being 
designed to beat the quickly growing cyber, space and nuclear capabilities of 
Beijing.

   The bomber is part of a major China-centric nuclear overhaul underway that 
the Congressional Budget Office has estimated will cost $1.2 trillion through 
2046.

   Already-tense relations between Washington and Beijing soured even more in 
August when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. China responded by 
firing missiles over the island and holding wargames in what was seen as a 
rehearsal for a possible blockade of the island.

   While the U.S. and Taiwan have no formal diplomatic relations in deference 
to Beijing, the U.S. maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan, 
along with a policy of "strategic ambiguity" over whether the U.S. would 
respond militarily if the island were attacked.

   Despite some moves to improve relations, China has shown an increasingly 
hard line on military affairs. Following a rare meeting last month between 
Austin and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, the Chinese side issued a 
statement saying, "The responsibility for the current situation facing 
China-U.S. relations is on the U.S. side, not on the Chinese side."

   In his remarks on Taiwan, Tan warned that, "The Chinese military has the 
confidence and capability to thwart any external interference and separatist 
plots for 'Taiwan independence' and realize the complete reunification of the 
motherland."

 
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