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Business News/ News / World/  China preparing to test new generation nuclear weapons? Satellite images reveal dangerous visuals
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China preparing to test new generation nuclear weapons? Satellite images reveal dangerous visuals

China is probably preparing to test a new generation of nuclear arms with an aim to increase the lethality of its rapidly expanding missile force

Chinese authorities have recently restarted excavation and construction in the horizontal tunnels bored into the side of the mountains (NYT)Premium
Chinese authorities have recently restarted excavation and construction in the horizontal tunnels bored into the side of the mountains (NYT)

The Israel-Hamas or the Russia-Ukraine war are some visible examples of the changing geopolitical order owing to tensions between various nations. But, more worrying are the skirmishes not visible through the naked eye. Amid a major diplomatic tussle with the United States, China is probably preparing to test a new generation of nuclear arms with an aim to increase the lethality of its rapidly expanding missile force, a report by the New York Times said.

The report, substantiated by satellite images claims to confirm the concerns around China's old base Lop Nur. The base where China detonated its first atomic bomb nearly 60 years ago has recently seen some massive infrastructural installments which include a deep vertical shaft.

Chinese authorities have recently restarted excavation and construction in the horizontal tunnels bored into the side of the mountains. These tunnels were used for the past nuclear weapons testing. The satellite imagery also confirms the addition of several new roads around the area.

“All the evidence points to China making preparations that would let it resume nuclear tests," Tong Zhao, a nuclear expert told the New York Times.

China making preparations that would let it resume nuclear tests
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China making preparations that would let it resume nuclear tests (NYT)

The experts suggest that the developments observed at Lop Nur indicate a comprehensive modernization effort within China's nuclear infrastructure. They caution that this could accelerate the expansion of military arsenals and potentially initiate a new era of nuclear competition.

Threatens to undermine global test ban

The revelations come at a time when the equation between the United States and China is going through a sensitive phase. The two countries have recently started to re-engage on some military terms and the buzz around fresh nuclear tests can derail the crucial deliberations.

Dr. Renny Babiarz, former analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, an arm of the Pentagon who uncovered the new evidence opined that “the deep shafts could accelerate an effort to perfect new types of nuclear arms for the country’s fast-growing arsenal."

The experts also point out that China is always concerned about the US or Russian nuclear arsenal
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The experts also point out that China is always concerned about the US or Russian nuclear arsenal (NYT)

China has dismissed the reports about any plans of a fresh nuclear and called such statements “clutching at shadows, groundlessly whipping up a ‘China nuclear threat.’" The Chinese foreign ministry called such claims “utterly irresponsible."

The FOMO factor

The experts also point out that China is always concerned about the US or Russian nuclear arsenal. Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned nuclear weapons in multiple provocative speeches and the United States responded to the threats with more dangerous threats. "China doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed in case somebody else goes first," Richard L. Garwin, a prominent nuclear physicist told New York Times.

“China feels it needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario," Dr. Zhao of the Carnegie Endowment said agreeing with the assessment of Richard L. Garwin.

 The satellite imagery also confirms the addition of several new roads around the area.
View Full Image
The satellite imagery also confirms the addition of several new roads around the area. (NYT)

According to Pentagon projections, if China continues its current rate of force expansion, it could deploy 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035. This anticipated quantity represents a fivefold rise from the "minimum deterrent" that China maintained for over 50 years.

The India question

The development comes as China is engaging in some intense skirmishes with India across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The Indian Army and China's PLA confronted each other several times in the past few years over issues related to border patrolling. The confrontation even led to a violent exchange between the two armies in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

The activities around Lop Nur might have raised the alarms in New Delhi and the Defence Ministry is expected to keep a close eye on the developments around the region.

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Published: 22 Dec 2023, 09:37 PM IST
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