China issues nuclear threat after furious bust-up with US over Taiwan: Protecting nation

Ukraine 'will be a lesson for US' with China says Leoni

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The news comes following a high-level meeting between China and the US in Singapore in which Washington warned Beijing not to destabilise the region. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine diverting attention away from China, fears are now mounting an emboldened China may seek to invade Taiwan. Yet China, already a nuclear power, feels further development of its nuclear weapons arsenal is fully justified.

Speaking following the event in Singapore, Mr Fenghe said: “China has developed its capabilities for over five decades.

“It’s fair to say there has been impressive progress.

“China’s policy is consistent.

“We use it for self-defence.

“We will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.”

Mr Fenghe continued by saying the production and deployment of nuclear weapons were designed to prevent a nuclear war.

He continued: “We developed nuclear capabilities to protect the hard work of the Chinese people and protect our people from the scourge of nuclear warfare.

“China is developing nuclear capabilities at a moderate and appropriate level.

“That means being able to protect our nation’s security so that we can avoid the catastrophe of a war, especially the catastrophe of a nuclear war.”

Washington has previously labelled China’s nuclear programme as “concerning”.

The US called on China to engage with it “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races.”

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday China was taking a more aggressive approach to territorial claims and that its military was increasingly engaging in provocative behaviour, including around Taiwan, where Chinese warplanes have been testing the island’s air defences.

On Sunday, Mr Fenghe responded, saying it was US strategy in the Asia-Pacific region that was propelling the two sides toward confrontation.

On the topic of Taiwan, the Chinese Defence Secretary issued a familiar message often voiced by Beijing.

He said: “No one should ever underestimate the resolve and ability of the Chinese military to safeguard its territorial integrity.”

China is also developing its missile programme, with Mr Fenghe, who previously commanded Beijing’s missile programme, with plans to deploy Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

The missiles in question are the Dongfeng-41 ICBM, previously seen in a military parade in 2019.

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In a direct warning to Taiwan, Mr Fenghe also stated China would not hesitate to go to war over the island which Beijing claims as sovereign territory.

During the conference, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said “East Asia could become the next Ukraine” as he warned of the consequences of China invading Taiwan.

Mr Kishida also criticized Beijing’s nuclear secrecy at the conference on Friday and said it should engage in talks with Washington.

People familiar with the Chinese leadership’s thinking say the build-up is driven by an assessment that the US may be more willing to challenge it militarily, including in a possible clash over Taiwan.

For more stories like this, follow Defence and Security Correspondent James Lee on Twitter: @JamesLee_DE

US President Joe Biden recently reiterated Washington’s commitment to protecting Taiwan in the event of a China invasion.

The Pentagon forecasts China may have around 1,000 nuclear warheads by the end of this decade, compared with a few hundred now. The US and Russia each have around 4,000 nuclear warheads.

Beijing has also developed and deployed more missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Satellite images suggest construction has accelerated this year on more than 100 suspected missile silos in China’s remote western region that could house Dongfeng-41 missiles.

China is also building missile launch sites in deserts and adding an aircraft carrier to its naval fleet.

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