China Fires Back at 'Delusional' U.S. After 'Nuclear Madness' Op-ed

The Chinese government described the United States as "delusional" on Tuesday as Beijing responded to claims that it has repeatedly failed to be transparent about its growing nuclear arms program.

Hua Chunying, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, accused the Trump administration of conducting "lying diplomacy," after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo co-authored an op-ed for Newsweek criticizing Beijing for being the "least transparent" of the five United Nations Security Council members.

The article, which Pompeo jointly penned with special presidential envoy for arms control Marshall Billingslea, was republished on the State Department's website under the title "China's Nuclear Madness."

"The United States arbitrarily withdrew [from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] and spends trillions of dollars on its nuclear arsenal, harming the strategic security and safety of the world," Hua told reporters at a regular press briefing.

She added: "The world can judge who is really conducting nuclear madness. The U.S. is delusional and amusing itself, but the rest of the world will not be deceived."

While failing to respond directly to the op-ed's concerns about the Chinese military's nuclear weapons stockpile, Hua said China's insistence on its "no first use" policy would not change. The U.S. is among other nuclear powers not to adopt an NFU policy, arguing for the use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent or, in the case of Russia, as retaliation against conventional weapons.

Pompeo and Billingslea, however, said Beijing's increasingly "aggressive" nuclear posture threatened non-nuclear neighbors in the region. This was "undermining confidence" in the Chinese government's NFU pledge, they said.

China is pursuing a "nuclear triad" of land, air and sea, Pompeo wrote. Its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, of which there were "more than a thousand," could be fired from fixed or mobile installations and reach U.S. shores in "30 minutes," he added.

The build-up of coastal arms was "intended to target U.S. forces in East Asia and to intimidate and coerce America's allies," the authors said, adding: "We expect that—if current trends hold—China will at least double its total nuclear arsenal in the next decade."

China is the only nuclear-weapon state that has unconditionally committed itself not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones. Can the #US make such a commitment?

— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) January 5, 2021

Pompeo's op-ed called on China to follow the rest of the U.N. Security Council in disclosing its nuclear arsenal. It was also important for Beijing to be part of any future Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty—or New START—which is currently only signed by Washington and Moscow, said the secretary.

"Beijing refuses to disclose how many nuclear weapons it has, how many it plans to develop, or what it plans to do with them. It is the least transparent of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council," he wrote.

Pompeo continued: "We also publicly release our Nuclear Posture Review, and we conduct biannual data exchanges with Russia on nuclear issues. Both France and the United Kingdom regularly produce statements detailing the numbers and types of nuclear weapons in their arsenals. China refuses to adopt these processes, instead clinging to secrecy as its preferred strategy."

"The United States, the Soviet Union and other nations recognized long ago that great powers must behave responsibly with the world's most dangerous weapons. So, too, must any nation with claims to greatness today," he said.

China Unveils Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missiles
File photo: China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images