China has made “impressive progress” in developing new nuclear weapons, but it will only use them for self-defense and will never use them first, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Sunday.
Responding to a question about last year’s reports of the construction of more than 100 new nuclear missile silos in eastern China, he said China “has always followed an appropriate path to develop nuclear capabilities for the protection of our country.” .
It added that nuclear weapons displayed at a 2019 military parade in Beijing, which included upgraded launchers for China’s DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, were operational and deployed.
“China has developed its capabilities for more than five decades. It is fair to say that there has been impressive progress,” he said. “China’s … policy is consistent. We use it for self-defense. We will not be the first to use nuclear (weapons).”
He said that the ultimate goal of China’s nuclear arsenal is to prevent nuclear war.
“We developed nuclear capabilities to protect the hard work of the Chinese people and protect our people from the scourge of nuclear war,” he said.
Last year, the US State Department called China’s nuclear buildup worrying and said it appeared Beijing was drifting from decades of nuclear strategy based on minimal deterrence. He asked China to engage with him “on practical steps to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races.”