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Zhao Minghao: Jointly cope with international nuclear security challenges


By Zhao Minghao    Source:    Published: 2016-4-5

What worries US strategists even more is the fact that Russia is making major revisions to its nuclear military theory to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons in conflicts, and to strengthen strategic deterrence against the NATO. Given this, the annual report published at the Munich Security Conference in February 2016 pointed out that the risk of using nuclear weapons in the Europe-Atlantic area is rising, and such risk is greater than any time after the Cold War.

Under such conditions, the US needs to try to turn China into a partner in the field of nuclear security. Meanwhile, China is becoming a firm supporter of international cooperation in nuclear security. Xi Jinping has attended several nuclear security summits, which is an important gesture of support for the US. In 2014, Xi for the first time put forward China`s outlook on nuclear security at the summit in The Hague. China is reportedly to deliver a national nuclear security report at the Washington summit, and Xi is expected to make substantive proposals on enhancing global nuclear security.

Why is China becoming increasing proactive on the issue of nuclear security? First, a number of countries with nuclear capabilities are on China`s periphery, and possibilities of large-scale conflicts between such countries, Pakistan and India for instance, do exist. The independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that India has 90 to 110 low-equivalent nuclear warheads, while Pakistan has as many as 120. As tension escalates regarding the North Korea nuclear issue, there have been louder calls for developing nuclear weapons in South Korea. About two-thirds of South Koreans agree that their country should develop nuclear weapons, or ask the US to re-deploy nuclear weapons there. Second, China is in all-out efforts to develop nuclear energy so as to improve structure of energy consumption. But there is a greater need for preventing and managing corresponding security risks. By 2020, installed power-generating capacity on China`s mainland will reach 58 million kilowatts, and China will take Japan`s place as the world`s largest nuclear energy user.

Third, China needs to upgrade precautions against "nuclear terrorism". In recent years, there have been multiple cases where such nuclear materials as highly enriched uranium were stolen or smuggled in other countries. Once such materials fall in the hands of terrorist organizations, they may make some crude nuclear weapons. They may even intend to sabotage Chinese nuclear facilities, or release radioactive nuclear pollutants in major Chinese cities using "dirty bombs".

Though China and the US disagree in many aspects, both are willing to deepen cooperation on nuclear security. China cooperated closely with the US and other countries and maneuvered the agreement on the Iran nuclear issue. The two countries held their first dialogue on nuclear security in February 2016. The nuclear security demonstration center the China Atomic Energy Agency and US Energy Department jointly built in Beijing has come into operation recently. It is the largest facility with the most advanced equipments the world over.

Themed on enhancing international nuclear security regime, the Washington summit will feature 52 national leaders and heads of governments. Obama will hold the only one-on-one meeting with Xi. In the process of building a new-type major-country relationship between China and the US, cooperation surrounding nuclear security may become a new highlight in bilateral relations.

The author is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: nuclear   China   US  

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