US Officials Worried China May Be Conducting Illegal Secret Nuclear Tests


The State Department is worried China may be conducting small secret nuclear weapons tests in violation of an international agreement banning all nuclear tests.

The State Department arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament report, first reported on by The Wall Street Journal, found that China may be conducting low explosive power tests in the northwest region of the country.

The report doesn’t prove that China is violating the international accord, but cites activity that raises some red flags.

“Some compliance concerns are raised and some findings of violations are made,” the report read.

The concerns stem from a high level of activity at China’s Lop Nur nuclear weapons test site in 2019, extensive excavation activities in the region and a lack of transparency from the Chinese on nuclear testing activities.

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The State Department also reported that China has blocked data transmissions from monitoring stations that were designed as part of the international agreement to detect radioactive emissions and seismic tremors.

The report said China could be preparing to operate the test site year-round.

The agreement in question is the Comprehensive Nuclear Ban Treaty that was concluded in 1996, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Although not legally in force because not enough countries have ratified it, both the U.S. and China have said they are abiding by its terms. Both countries have signed the agreement, but neither one has ratified it.

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The Trump Administration included its concerns in an annual review of the international compliance with arms-control accords.

The report was published as President Donald Trump seeks to invite China to engage in a two-way “strategic security dialogue” on arms control, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Some former arms-control officers said that the Trump administration should be voicing its concerns directly to China before publishing it in a report.

“If the United States has concerns that nuclear-yield producing testing has been done by China, we should discuss our concerns with Beijing — and discuss ways to build confidence that such tests are not happening,” said Steven Andreason, the top National Security Council official on arms control during the Clinton administration.

An anonymous spokeswoman for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization also told The Wall Street Journal that there have been almost no data transmission interruptions by the Chinese since September 2019.

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“Data transmission from all certified stations was interrupted in 2018 after the testing and evaluation and certification process was completed,” she said.

“In August 2019, ongoing negotiations on post-certification activity contracts with Chinese station operators were concluded and data transmission resumed for all five certified stations.”

China responded to the accusations Thursday, with a spokesperson saying the country remains committed to the nuclear testing ban, according to Bloomberg.

“The U.S. neglects all the facts and makes wanton accusations against China,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a briefing. “This is irresponsible and ill-intentioned.”

Concerns from U.S. officials come as the United States has questioned China’s possible involvement in the coronavirus outbreak that has swept the world.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News’ “The Story” that even though they know the virus originated in Wuhan, China, there is still a lot to learn about the virus.

“We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was,” he said. “There is still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure this out.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith