BEIJING (Reuters) - China should expand its stock of nuclear warheads to 1,000 soon, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said on Friday, even as U.S. President Donald Trump repeats his call for China to join an arms control treaty.
The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. The party has been known to float ideas and guide public sentiments via the Global Times, which tends to take a nationalistic stance on issues involving other countries.
Tensions between United States and China, already high from an ongoing trade war, have increased in recent months amid a war of words over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We love peace and promise not to use nuclear weapons first, but we need a bigger nuclear arsenal to suppress U.S. strategic ambition and impulse against China,” Hu wrote in a Weibo post.
Hu added that this stockpile should include “at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles”, a latest class of intercontinental missiles capable of striking continental United States, according to defense experts.
He wrote, “Don’t think that nuclear warheads are useless during peacetime. We are using them everyone, silently, to shape the attitudes of American elites towards us.”
Hu’s post on Weibo - a Twitter-like social media in China - came after White House said Trump called for “effective arms control” that includes China and Russia during a telephone call on Thursday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Trump has long sought for China to be included in a renewal of the New START nuclear arms treaty that expires in February 2021, but Beijing has steadfastly rejected such calls.
“Major powers have the foremost responsibility and obligation in the area of nuclear arms control. China has always adhered to the policy of not being the first country to use nuclear,” said China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Friday.
An internal Chinese report warns that Beijing faces a rising wave of hostility in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that could tip relations with the United States into armed confrontation in the worst-case scenario, according to a Reuters report this week.
Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Frances Kerry