China's ongoing nuclear weapons modernisation programme, which lacks transparency, is destabilising in nature, the US said on Tuesday as it alleged that Beijing's militarisation is aimed at expanding its ability to coerce American allies.

While the US has continued to reduce the number and salience of its nuclear weapons, other states, including China, have moved in the opposite direction, according to Yleem D S Poblete, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

"Chinese military modernisation remains centrally focused on establishing regional dominance in order to expand its ability to coerce US allies, eventually pushing the United States out of the region, and becoming a military power capable of competing on the global stage," he said in his address to the 2019 Session of Conference on Disarmament, Geneva.

This modernisation, he said, has resulted in an expanding and diverse nuclear force, with a new generation of delivery systems coming online as China works to establish a nuclear triad dispersed across land, sea, and air platforms, which include next-generation missiles and a stealthy, long-range strategic bomber.

"While China's nuclear declaratory policy has not changed, its lack of transparency regarding the scope and scale of its nuclear modernisation programme is destabilising, raising questions regarding its future intent, and challenges the atmosphere for progress on nuclear disarmament," Poblete said.

Whereas in 2000 it was possible to report that China had only 18 DF-5 nuclear armed, silo-based missiles, now, just 19 years later, US can now say that China has deployed approximately 125 nuclear-armed missiles, the top American diplomat said.

That trend is hardly abating; China is engaged in an ongoing nuclear build-up, he said.

China, Poblete said, also engages in increasingly concerning behaviour in outer space.

As a leading spacefaring nation, China continually calls for responsible use in space and co-sponsors the PPWT, yet it continues to pursue anti-satellite capabilities, he added.

Similar to Russia, it is difficult to determine the truthfulness of China's concern about the prevention of an arms race in space and their support for space arms control when China continues to pursue military capabilities such as jammers and directed energy weapons and when it openly emphasizes the need for offensive cyberspace capabilities, he said.

"Now, despite their consistent vocal support of the PPWT, the Chinese are likely preparing to use ground-and-space-based counterspace capabilities, as emphasised by the Chinese President years ago, who told a military space launch center that they should 'focus on military training and research and combat capabilities and integrate with the PLA’s joint operation system'," Poblete said. 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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