China says its new nuclear weapons are only for self-defense

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Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe told delegates Sunday at the Shangri-La Dialogue that China has made progress in developing a nuclear arsenal but would only utilize the new weapons for self-defense measures.

When asked about reports from last year regarding the construction of more than 100 new nuclear missile silos in eastern China, he said the country “has always pursued an appropriate path to developing nuclear capabilities for protection of our country.”

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China's Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe speaks at a plenary session during the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Sunday, June 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Danial Hakim)

China’s Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe speaks at a plenary session during the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia’s annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Sunday, June 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Danial Hakim)

The minister said nuclear weapons displayed in a 2019 military parade in Beijing were operational and deployed. These weapons included upgraded launchers for China’s DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“China has developed its capabilities for over five decades. It’s fair to say 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 China’s ultimate goal for its nuclear capabilities was to prevent nuclear war.

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China's Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe speaks at a plenary session during the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Sunday, June 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Danial Hakim)

China’s Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe speaks at a plenary session during the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia’s annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Sunday, June 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Danial Hakim)

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“We developed nuclear capabilities to protect the hard work of the Chinese people and protect our people from the scourge of the nuclear warfare,” he said.

Last year, the U.S. State Department said China’s nuclear development was concerning and that it appeared the Asian country was deviating from decades of nuclear strategy of minimal deterrence. 

The State Department urged China to engage with it “on practical measures to reduce the risks of destabilizing arms races.”

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Reuters contributed to this report.

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