China's nuclear build-up worries G7 leaders

China's rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal is a "concern to global and regional stability", leaders of the G7 nations said on Friday after talks on nuclear disarmament at a summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

China first carried out nuclear tests in 1964 and long had a modest arsenal, but over the past decade, president Xi Jinping has built up its nuclear capabilities as part of a military modernisation drive. The country now has 350 nuclear warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

This is still significantly less than Russia and the United States, which have 4,477 and 3,708 nuclear warheads respectively. However, according to a US Department of Defence report published in November, China could have 1,500 warheads by 2035.

“China’s accelerating build-up of its nuclear arsenal without transparency nor meaningful dialogue poses a concern to global and regional stability,” the G7 leaders said in a statement.

'Irresponsible rhetoric'

The leaders, who paid tribute to the estimated 140,000 victims of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II, also condemned Russia's "irresponsible nuclear rhetoric" and "dangerous and unacceptable" plans to house nuclear weapons in Belarus.

It is the first time a G7 summit has issued a statement on nuclear disarmament, the result of efforts by Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida.

The leaders also condemned the nuclear activities of North Korea and Iran, and underlined their willingness to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. They made no concrete commitments.


European Council president Charles Michel, Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau, Italy's prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Germany's chancellor Olaf Scholz, Britain's prime minister Rishi Sunak, US president Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island in Hatsukaichi © PHOTO KENNY HOLSTON / POOL / AFP


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