As if things weren’t already bad enough between the two nations, a US State Department report made public by The Wall Street Journal confirmed the charges earlier this week.
“The concerns stem from the high tempo of activity at China’s Lop Nur test site, extensive excavations at the site, and Beijing’s purported use of special chambers to contain explosions.” the State Department report suggests.
The report raises concerns about whether China is abiding to the US-interpreted “zero yield” standard on nuclear testing, which is a reference to a type of nuclear test whereby there is no explosive chain reaction of the type ignited by the detonation of a nuclear warhead.
The report also claimed Beijing blocked data transmissions from sensors linked to an international monitoring center, a claim that was disputed by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in China.
If the accusations are true, China, which is estimated to have about 300 nuclear weapons, would be in violation of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits any nuclear reactions involving explosives.
Neither China nor the US has officially ratified the treaty, however, which means each is still relying purely on the word of the other, and on-site inspections cannot be conducted.
China responded to the accusations by angrily denying them as ‘false’.
“China has always adopted a responsible attitude, earnestly fulfilling the international obligations and promises it has assumed,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, adding “The US criticism of China is entirely groundless, without foundation, and not worth refuting.”
There have been some concerns among more hawkish Republicans that the US is not keeping up with China in terms of nuclear arms development, thus some have been trying to influence President Trump to ditch the CTBT, allowing the US to start new testing of its own.
An anonymous senior US official told The Guardian that “The pace and manner by which the Chinese government is modernising its stockpile is worrying, destabilising, and illustrates why China should be brought into the global arms control framework.”