China may have secretly conducted low-grade nuclear tests: Report

The US State Department has claimed that China may have conducted a low-yield underground nuclear test at its Lop Nur test site, last year

The US State Department has claimed that China may have secretly conducted low-grade nuclear tests. The tests are claimed to have been carried out at its Lop Nur test site.

Although the US State Department has claimed that China conducted a low-grade nuclear explosion, it doesn't offer any proof other than the circumstantial evidence, such as increased activity at its Lop Nur test site.

Did China conduct a low-grade nuclear test?

Xi Jinping

"China's possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard," according to the state department, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Last May, similar allegations were levelled against Russia by the US defence intelligence agency, however, the claims were never proved. Republican senator Tom Cotton took to Twitter to raise the issue of unsigning the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CBDT). "The Chinese Communist Party's conducting covert nuclear tests is yet another reason to unsign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty", he wrote on Twitter.

"United States is yet again imposing unilateral arms-control restrictions on ourselves, while our global competitors play by a separate set of rules," he further added.

China and the United States are signatories to CTBT

Both China and the United States are signatories to the CTBT, which aims to ban nuclear testing, however, neither country has ratified it. A total of nine countries haven't ratified it, while 35 have neither signed nor ratified the treaty, preventing its enforcement.

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, wrote on Twitter: "US, Russia and China all conduct subcritical tests. Subcritical tests are not prohibited the CTBT, which is not in force and which neither the US nor China has ratified. From satellites and seismic stations, subcritical tests are indistinguishable from low yield nuclear tests."

He opined that satellite images did show excavations at the test site, but it could be for many reasons: "subcritical experiments, secret low-yield nuclear tests, or resuming full yield nuclear tests." If the claims regarding China's nuclear activity are proved, it might worsen the severed ties between Beijing and Washington, who've witnessed another fall-out due to China's alleged mishandling of the initial novel coronavirus outbreak.

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