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Many experts question Trump’s claim on China’s nuclear weapons buildup

A New Superpower Competition Between Beijing and Washington: China’s Nuclear Buildup, The Trump administration is portraying the small but increasingly potent Chinese arsenal — still only one-fifth the size of the United States’ or Russia’s — as the big new threat.  By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, June 30, 2020

  • When negotiators from the United States and Russia met in Vienna last week to discuss renewing the last major nuclear arms control treaty that still exists between the two countries, American officials surprised their counterparts with a classified briefing on new and threatening nuclear capabilities — not Russia’s, but China’s.

…..  Many outside experts question whether China’s buildup — assessed as bringing greater capability more than greater numbers — is as fast, or as threatening, as the Trump administration insists.

The intelligence on Beijing’s efforts remains classified, a senior administration official said, noting that sharing such data is not unusual among the world’s major nuclear weapons states. But that means it was given to an adversary with whom the United States is conducting daily, low-level conflict — including cyberattacks, military probes by warplanes and Russian aggression in Ukraine. And that was before reports surfaced that a Russian military intelligence unit had put bounties on American and allied troops in Afghanistan. ……
The Russians have publicly offered a straight, five-year extension of New START, which would not require congressional approval. But Mr. Trump is clearly betting that he can find common ground with Mr. Putin in confronting the Chinese……..
Nuclear weapons are joining the panoply of issues — including trade deals, banning Chinese students and wiring the world for 5G networks — that Mr. Trump has put at the center of a series of U.S.-China standoffs. …………
 the past four presidents have abided by the treaty’s ban on nuclear tests. That may be coming to an end: Mr. Billingslea confirmed that the Trump administration had discussed “unsigning” the treaty and debated whether the United States should return to nuclear testing, which it has not engaged in since 1992. But he said there was no need to do so for now.

The United States conducted more nuclear tests during the Cold War than the rest of the world combined. Over decades of experimentation, and more than 1,000 tests, its bomb designers learned many tricks of extreme miniaturization as well as how to endow their creations with colossal destructive force. Compared with the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima, the nation’s first explosive test of a hydrogen bomb, in 1954, produced a blast 1,000 times as powerful.

Because of that history, many nuclear experts now argue that if Mr. Trump begins a new wave of global testing, it would aid American rivals more than the United States.

“We lose more than we gain,” Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico and now a professor at Stanford University, said in an interview. Beijing had conducted only 45 tests, he noted, and would welcome a resumption of testing to “increase the sophistication or perhaps the diversification” of its arsenal, “and that can only come back to be a national security risk for the United States.”

 

Activity at the desert testing site in Nevada has soared in recent years. There is new drilling, construction, equipment, employees and periodic “subcritical” tests, just below the threshold of producing a nuclear explosion.

For years, some Republicans have urged preparations for a test and poured money into the effort. One instrument now being prepared for the Nevada complex costs $800 million; it would test the behavior of plutonium.

Today, Republicans are still urging more upgrades and speedups, including at the Nevada complex. This month, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, offered an amendment to a defense bill that would add at least $10 million to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test.”

Top Democrats in the House told the Pentagon and the Energy Department in a recent letter that the idea of a renewal in nuclear testing was “unfathomable,” as well as “shortsighted and dangerous.”

But Mr. Billingslea thinks he succeeded in getting the Russians to think about what is happening in China, not in the Nevada desert. During his meeting last week, the Russians were taking copious notes on China’s buildup, while reviewing classified slides. He insists they want to sit down and talk more later in the summer.

They will do so without the Chinese….https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/us/politics/trump-russia-china-nuclear.html

July 2, 2020 - Posted by | China, politics international, USA, weapons and war

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