Key Issues Nuclear Weapons Issues Proliferation China


Introduction: China acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) in 1992 and is the only NWS that has ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol. The Chinese nuclear program started in the mid-1950s. In 1964, China conducted its first nuclear weapon test. China possesses some 400 nuclear weapons and a variety of short-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is the only nuclear weapons state to adhere to a policy of no-first use of nuclear weapons.

Although China has sponsored many disarmament resolutions in the United Nations, it is

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proceeding with modernizing its nuclear arsenal, in addition to increasing its military capabilities. Specifically, China is modernizing its missile force to include an emerging cruise missile capability. Despite promises to do so, China has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and continues to maintain its nuclear test site. Many analysts attribute China’s nuclear modernization efforts to the US development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses, which undermine China’s minimum deterrence capacity.

China ’s role as a proliferator to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and 1990s prompted the United States to exert pressure on the country to adhere to international nonproliferation treaties, and especially export controls regime. Even though China is still not member to regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), it managed to close the major gaps in its domestic export controls regulations by 2002.

Acting as a mediator between the United States and North Korea, China has been one of the main players in the Six-Party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

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