Nuke tests talk aims to spark arms race

It may just be a negotiation gimmick on the part of the US administration’s national defense hawks, who fancy dragging China into what they wish would be a trilateral nuclear arms control regime. It may simply be meant to put Washington in a more favorable position in its tug-of-war with archrival Russia. However, that the White House is even considering reviving explosive nuclear tests, after a 28-year moratorium, is an indication that a new nuclear arms race could be in the offing. The current US administration has assumed a predominantly disruptive role when it comes to global governance. According to the White House’s understanding of American “greatness” and its approach to regaining it, the US staying true to its arms control commitments is probably viewed as being synonymous with American weakness. Thus it has withdrawn the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and “unsigned” the Arms Trade Treaty. It is now talking about scrapping the Open Skies Treaty, an important mutual verification arrangement that facilitates military mutual trust, and not extending the New START pact, which limits US and Russian nuclear arsenals. It is generally believed that global nuclear arms control has three pillars: the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile System, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The George W. Bush administration withdrew from the first in 2001. The current administration has already killed the second, and is apparently on its way to nullifying the third. If, with those three pillars gone, the White House reactivated explosive nuclear tests, it truly would open the Pandora’s box of another global nuclear arms race, reduce decades of international nuclear arms control endeavors to zero, and create a greater existential threat to humanity as a whole. Moscow has announced plans to develop new nuclear weapons in response to Washington’s recent threats. If the US administration’s talk of nuclear tests translates into an actual move one day, there certainly will be an escalation in Russian countermoves. Not to mention the very negative example the US move sets for nuclear non-proliferation worldwide. Considering China’s long-standing strategy of using nuclear weapons as a deterrent, as well as its high-profile commitment to peace, it is unlikely to be easily pulled into an exhausting nuclear arms race. But since the current US administration views undermining global strategic stability as a means to “make America great again”, it is likely that rather than contribute more to nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation regime, it will continue to threaten to use nuclear weapons in an ever-expanding range of scenarios, and thus increase the risk of their use by itself or others. –CN