By Greg Torode
Singapore (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – A senior NATO official on Friday urged Beijing to be more open about accelerating nuclear weapons development, saying that as a global power, China has a responsibility to improve transparency.
Angus Lapsley, deputy secretary general for defense policy and planning at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), told the Shangri-La regional security conference in Singapore that NATO was willing to talk to China on the issue.
“As a global power, it has a global responsibility to be more transparent,” Lapsley said, adding that the scale and pace of China’s build-up has been “truly amazing.”
Lapsley said NATO, with nuclear-armed members the United States, France and Britain, did not want to interfere in the region but wanted to engage, noting that China had a right to modernize and expand its arsenals.
“NATO is open to dialogue, but it cannot replace dialogue between the United States and China,” he said.
Lapsley noted reports from the Pentagon that China’s arsenal is growing in size and sophistication, and US officials have called for more dialogue with China.
The Pentagon’s annual China report, released in November 2022, found that Beijing’s nuclear program has accelerated and now has more than 400 operational nuclear warheads, a figure still far below US and Russian stockpiles.
By 2035 – when China is aiming for a comprehensive modernization of its military – China will likely possess a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads and an advanced array of missiles, the Pentagon says.
Although China was not represented on the panel, People’s Liberation Army officers in the audience questioned recent moves by the United States and its allies to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and improve protection for Korea. South.
One said estimates of its long-term accumulation were “imagination.”
A nuclear powerhouse since the early 1960s, China has for decades retained small numbers of nuclear warheads and missiles as a deterrent under a “no first use” pledge that remains its official policy despite Beijing’s broader military modernization under President Xi Jinping.
In a keynote address on the opening night of the three-day forum, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament remains an important cause.
“Citizens of this region have shown a resolute commitment to prevent the spread of these destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons,” he said.
(Reporting by Greg Torode. Editing by Gerry Doyle)