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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

US defense chief urges nuclear force upgrade citing China's stockpile

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 30 August 2020 1:08 AM

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has called for the modernization of American nuclear force and "maintain readiness" to ensure the safety of the Indo-Pacific region, accusing China of doubling its nuclear arsenal amid persisting tensions between the two countries regarding their military operations in the region.

"As Communist China moves to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile, modernizing our nuclear force and maintaining readiness is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific," Esper claimed on Saturday in a Twitter message.

Esper's statement came following a meeting in the US island territory of Guam with Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, who told reporters in Tokyo in an online press briefing that both counterparts shared concerns about "Chinese actions in the region," and that both allies opposed any unilateral attempt to change "the status quo" in the strategic waterways of the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

"We agreed that the international community will respond firmly to any unilateral change to the status quo in the South China Sea as well as the East China Sea," Kono asserted.

Beijing's claim to a group of tiny East China Sea islets controlled by Tokyo remains a thorny issue in China's relations with Japan.

The Japanese minister further underlined that Esper had confirmed that the US-Japan security treaty covered the East China Sea islets, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.

The development came a day after the Chinese military warned of an unintentional military confrontation with the US if American forces do not halt their naval operations in the South China Sea, insisting that recent US activities in the region are instigating such hostilities.

"We urge the US to stop such provocative behavior and restrict its maritime actions to avoid possible military accidents," said the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) spokesman Colonel Li Huamin, noting that a US warship had intruded into China's territorial waters without authorization on Thursday.

Li's remarks came a day after PLA forces warned off a trespassing American guided missile destroyer USS Mustin in territorial waters of China's Xisha Islands, close to an area where the Chinese military was holding exercises that reportedly included live fire anti-ship ballistic missile launches.

The PLA spokesman said the American forces have ignored international law by repeatedly stirring up troubles in the South China Sea and claimed navigational hegemony in the name of "freedom of navigation," seriously undermined Beijing's sovereignty and security interests in the region.

Li further reiterated Beijing's "undisputable sovereignty" over the islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters in the region, insisting that Chinese troops are always on high alert to protect national sovereignty and safeguard peace and stability in the area.

Washington and Beijing are currently at loggerheads over a host of issues, including trade, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan, navigation in the East and South China Seas, and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Russia and the US held talks in Vienna back in June in a bid to salvage the so-called New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) -- the last bilateral accord limiting the two countries' nuclear arsenals that is due to expire next February.

This is while China has repeatedly rejected invitations to join the arms control talks between Moscow and Washington, dashing US hopes of making them trilateral.

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