Amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on August 7, Saturday expressed concerns over China’s growing nuclear arsenal. During a meeting with the foreign ministers of the 28th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Blinken outlined a list of provocative Chinese behaviour. He noted serious concerns over the rapid growth of the People's Republic of China's (PRC) nuclear arsenal which highlights how China has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.
According to a report from the American Federation of Scientists, Beijing was building more than 100 missiles in its Xinjiang region, raising questions about China’s nuclear weapons ambitions. It is estimated that China holds approximately 350 of the world’s nukes. Therefore, Blinken expressed concerns to Southeast Asian foreign ministers about China’s growing nuclear arsenal.
The US State Secretary also called on Beijing to abide by its obligations under the international law of the sea and cease its provocative behaviour in the South China Sea. It is worth noting that the South China Sea serves as a gateway to global sea routes where nearly $4 trillion of trade passes annually. The sea is also home to an estimated $2.6 trillion in recoverable offshore oil and gas. The region has five claimants including, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
According to ANI, Blinken also raised serious concerns about ongoing human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Previously, the Biden administration even warned businesses with ties to Hong Kong and Xinjiang of sweeping regulatory risks as China continues to restrict political and economic freedoms in the region. China, on the other hand, responded by imposing sanctions on several US individuals and organisations, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Human Rights Watch's China director, Sophie Richardson.
Meanwhile, during the same meeting, Blinken also joined other countries in calling for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. He also urged all ARF member states to press the military regime in Burma to end violence and support the people of Burma as they work to return to democratic governance.