China Dismisses U.S. Suggestion It Is Conducting Secret Nuclear Tests, Calls Report 'Irresponsible'

A Chinese government spokesperson dismissed allegations by the U.S. State Department that Beijing may have conducted secret underground nuclear tests, claiming that the regime is actively fulfilling all arms control commitments.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lianjing told reporters at a daily briefing Thursday that the U.S. allegations were not even worth refuting, according to Reuters. The U.S. report, first revealed by The Wall Street Journal, said China may have conducted a low-yield underground nuclear test at the Lop Nur site in the northwest of the country.

The State Department noted that China may be preparing Lop Nur to be used year-round, installing "explosive containment chambers" and conducting "extensive" excavation. This, plus China's "lack of transparency" on its nuclear testing activities, raises concerns "regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard," the report said. Though it does not offer any proof of nuclear tests, the report said that the Chinese activities "raise concern" over what may be happening at Lop Nur.

But Zhao dismissed the accusation out of hand, Bloomberg reported.

"The U.S. neglects all the facts and makes wanton accusations against China," Zhao said. "This is irresponsible and ill-intentioned."

Zhao suggested it was the U.S., rather than China, that is undermining arms control agreements. The spokesperson noted President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and the Iran nuclear deal as evidence.

"Instead of destroying its chemical weapons stockpile, the U.S. has sought a comprehensive military buildup, seriously disrupting global strategic equilibrium and stability and hampering the international arms control process," Zhao claimed.

China is believed to have around 300 nuclear warheads, compared with the U.S. arsenal of more than 6,100. Both nations have signed the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions of any kind for any purpose.

Neither nation has ratified the agreement, though China has said it will adhere to the deal's terms. The U.S. imposed its own nuclear testing moratorium in 1992. Zhao said Thursday that Beijing remains committed to the moratorium.

"China has always adopted a responsible attitude, earnestly fulfilling the international obligations and promises it has assumed," Zhao told reporters.

The dispute over possible nuclear testing will further undermine U.S.-China relations, already at a low point amid the coronavirus pandemic and following three years of tough policy and rhetoric from Trump's White House.

The Chinese Communist Party regime and the Trump administration have both maligned the other over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Zhao suggested without evidence that the U.S. Army may be behind the virus' outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Trump and Pompeo have both discussed a conspiracy theory alleging that the virus came from a research laboratory in the city, of which there remains no evidence. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said Tuesday that the "weight of evidence" available suggests COVID-19 did not come from a lab.

China, nuclear weapons, test, secret, lop nur
This file photo shows Chinese police officers in formation next to a national flag to mark the country's national day of mourning for COVID-19 at Beijing Railway Station on April 4, 2020 in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images/Getty