Increasing Russia-China Nuclear Cooperation Threatens to Unsettle Global Power Balance

Russia has dealt another blow to the US plans to keep the global nuclear balance in equilibrium, as Moscow has moved to deepen its cooperation with Beijing in developing key atomic technology.

In their latest meeting in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to work on the development of fast-neutron reactors. The development has alarmed strategists at the Pentagon, a Bloomberg report says.

Taishan nuclear plant, China
Taishan nuclear plant, China Wikimedia Commons

"Russia and the People's Republic of China's nuclear cooperation goes much farther than just civilian projects," the chairmen of the armed services, foreign affairs and intelligence committees of Congress wrote to the National Security Advisor last week, according to reports.

Massive Load of Nuclear Fuel

Putin and Xi's decision during the Chinese president's three-day tour to Russia to increase cooperation in the development of fast-neutron reactors is only the latest in a series of developments that showcased the emerging threat to the US.

Earlier this month, reports said Russia has been shipping a 'massive load of nuclear fuel' to a strategic Chinese fast-breeder reactor situated close to Taiwan's northern cost.

China's CFR-600 fast-breeder reactor on Changbiao Island has the capacity to start producing weapons-grade plutonium that can potentially help China increase its nuclear arsenal significantly, the US fears.

China Nuclear Missile
China's nuclear missiles on display YouTube Grab

What is CFR-600?

According to Pentagon officials, Russian state-owned Rosatom Corporation supplied about 6,477 kilograms of uranium to the Chinese plant in December.

China says the CFR-600 is part of its $440 billion nuclear energy program that will eventually help the Dragon overtake the US as the world's top nuclear-energy provider. According to US analysts, the CFR-600 facility can produce fuel for some 50 nuclear warheads a year.

Kremlin-controlled nuclear giant Rosatom Corp. has reportedly moved 25 tons of highly-enriched uranium to this reactor. However, China staunchly denies the Pentagon claim that China's work at CFR-600 fuels another global nuclear arms race.

Flags of Russia and China
Flags of Russia and China Wikimedia Commons

Beijing says it has also fulfilled its nuclear non-proliferation obligations and voluntarily submitted details of its civil nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Analysts reckon that worsening geopolitical situations and the roiling of ties between the US and China can push things to take a turn for the worse. Combined with the emerging Russia-China axis in the context of the ongoing Ukraine war, the scenario gives rise to concerns over a potential new nuclear arms race.

In February, Putin said the strategic nuclear weapons reduction treaty his country had signed with the United States has been suspended in the wake of the aggressive western assistance to Ukraine.

Putin said he has ordered new strategic systems to be deployed on combat duty, signalling a willingness to walk the talk on the nuclear threat if pushed to the limits in Ukraine. Putin also said his country would also resume nuclear tests.