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After Covid-19, US Now Accuses China Of Conducting Zero-Yield Nuclear Test

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China may have conducted a secret low-level underground nuclear test in violation of the international agreement, a new report by the United States has claimed. The findings first published by the Wall Street Journal may further strain US-China relations that have worsened after the Covid-19 outbreak.

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The new US State Department report on compliance with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament, accuses China of failing to adhere to non-proliferation commitments and claims that China conducted zero-yield blast at its Lop Nur nuclear test site throughout 2019.

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Zero-yield refers to a nuclear test in which there is no explosive chain reaction of the type ignited by the detonation of a nuclear warhead. “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 testing activities raise concerns to its adherence to a zero-yield standard,” the report said.

Although, the report has raised some red flags regarding China’s compliance with the international agreement and mentioned some violations it did not conclusively prove any wrongdoing on the part of the Chinese government.

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Another factor that warranted United States concern is due to the interruptions caused in data transmission from monitoring stations on Chinese territory that detect emissions and seismic activities.

Nations who have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996 are responsible for the operation of the stations that are part of an elaborate international network of hundreds of sites that have been set up to ensure adherence to the test ban treaty.

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Countries that have inked the 1996 agreement are responsible for running the stations and for voluntary transmission of data to Vienna based organization that oversees compliance as the international accord is yet to come into effect.

However, a spokeswoman for the Vienna based organization denied any interruption in transmission of data from the Chinese monitoring stations since 2019. The spokeswoman said that data transmission was interrupted in 2018 because of the negotiations between CTBT and the Chinese Government on the arrangements for operationalizing the stations.

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She said that data transmission from all certified stations was obstructed in 2018 after the testing and evaluation and certification process was completed. She added that Chinese transmission resumed post-2019 when negotiations on Chinese stations concluded.

The 1996 treaty allows for a host of activities for warranting the safety of nuclear weapons, including tests comprising fissile material as long as they don’t produce a nuclear-explosive yield.

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Russia, France, and Britain have signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which still requires ratification by 44 countries to become international law. China and the United States are among eight signatories that have not ratified it.

But China has declared its adherence to its terms, while the United States has observed a unilateral testing moratorium since 1992.  A senior US official said that the report has once again highlighted the need for China to join the United States and Russia in talks on an arms control accord to replace the 2010 New START which restricts both the US and Russia from deploying not more than 1,550 nuclear warheads and limit the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them.

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Experts have pointed out that the Lop Nur isn’t proof of any Chinese wrongdoing and the most effective way to resolve concerns about low-yield nuclear explosions is to get China and the US to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

However, China has rubbished all such allegations. According to reports, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “China has always performed its international obligations and commitments in a responsible manner, firmly upheld multilateralism and actively carried out international cooperation.

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The US accusation against China is made out of thin air, which is totally unfounded and worth refuting.” Zhao also pointed to US withdrawal from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty for discounting US accusations.

Zhao also said that the US was not qualified to be a judge or referee in this matter as it was maintaining an arsenal of biochemical weapons and was increasingly bolstering its armed forces in a dangerous manner that threatened international stability and peace.

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Beijing calls Japan’s F-35 deal with the US a big threat to China, Russia

China acknowledges that Japan is buying the US’ F-35 jets out of practicality as Tokyo needs to upgrade its ageing jets but accuses the US of hunting like wolves and not like a tiger.

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The US recently approved the sale of F-35 joint strike fighters to Japan at a whopping cost of $23 billion. China, a traditional foe and close neighbour of Japan has expressed concern of having such advanced jets in the region which could be detrimental to the security of both China and Russia.

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Chinese state media  – the Global Times acknowledges for once that Japan is buying the US’ F-35 jets out of practicality and as Tokyo needs to upgrade its current F-2s and F-15s jets.

GT also accepts that Japan could be facing pressure from China and Russia and Tokyo has rationally opted to go for the most advanced jets in the world – the F-35s to counter the dual challenge of Beijing and Moscow.

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It goes on to say – Japan has made substantial improvement in its military modernization program. The first of the Izumo-class helicopter carriers, Izumo, has marked a milestone in its transformation into Japan’s first true aircraft carrier since World War II. The other Izumo-class carrier Kaga is also under transmutation. Both ships will be transformed into light aircraft carriers on which approximately 20 F-35s can be stationed.

But light aircraft carriers have restricted combat capabilities. Due to political issues, the reformations are concerning in certain quarters because they represent “the first time” that modern Japan has had fixed-wing aircraft carriers.

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Japan is approving a strategy of taking rapid moves in carrier development. Of special interest will be any plan by Japan to develop real carriers over 50,000 tons. If they acquire a large number of F-35Cs, it will imply a new stage of Japanese aircraft carrier development.

Such a massive military advancement in Japan will bother its neighbours i.e. Russia and China. There are apprehensions that Japan will amend its peaceful constitution. This could turn Japan into an aggressive, hostile force and nations that suffered in World War II because of Japanese expansionist policy will be closely watching.

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Japan is a key defence partner of the US. It is also part of Washington’s so-called global alliance that targets China. Tokyo is also collaborating with the US by developing an anti-missile system, which will affect the strike capabilities of China and Russia and endanger its security, writes the GT.

Without self-sufficient defence capabilities, Japan is incapable of holding by itself and will only end up being commanded by the US. Although Japan has its own strategies and doesn’t want to be fully commanded by Washington, the US will unquestionably tightly its grip over Tokyo and use it against China and Russia.

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GT accuses the US of hunting in a group, indirectly referring to all the alliances that Washington has all over the globe. Japan has limited military capabilities and is only capable of integrated combat with the assistance of the US, the report says.

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Africa emerges as a new battle ground for India and China for trade, commerce war

India sees this initiative as an effort by China to flex its economic muscle and extend the reach of its influence. “However, India’s engagement with Africa is not limited to trade and commerce.

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Post the border clashes, India and China are striving to create a robust influence in Africa through humanitarian aid and investments. However, with the countries adopting different outreach strategies, analysts suggest that competition between India and China is unnecessary as there is room for both to make their presence felt. 

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According to Maria Siow, a China-based journalist and analyst, India’s renewed focus on Africa is a result of China’s growing footprint on the continent, not just in terms of trade and commerce, but also Beijing’s rising maritime interests.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims at connecting Asia with Africa and Europe through land and maritime routes which would enable regional integration and growth in trade and commerce.

Recently, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a press conference that a total of 44 African countries and the African Union Commission have signed cooperation documents with China on the Belt and Road initiative.

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“It is a vote of confidence in China-Africa cooperation from our African brothers,” he added.

India sees this initiative as an effort by China to flex its economic muscle and extend the reach of its influence. “However, India’s engagement with Africa is not limited to trade and commerce.

The Indian diaspora, for instance, has been a major force in several African nations’ pursuit of prosperity and political participation,” said Swaran Singh, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies.

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India and China stand far apart in terms of the size of their economies. India’s US$2.7 trillion versus China’s US$14 trillion which acts as a roadblock for New Delhi to make further inroads in African nations.

According to United Nations trade data, 39 African countries imported more than US$71 billion worth of goods from China in 2017 and only US$21 billion from India.

“African governments are therefore aware that in spite of their rapprochement with India, China remains the most important – and at the government level, the most trusted – development and investment partner on the continent,” said Lin Minwang, the deputy director of Fudan University’s Institute for South Asian Studies.

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Nevertheless, India has not made huge loans to African countries and thus avoided being a major part of the serious debt problems facing by many African countries today.

However, it is expected that India’s investment in Africa will become more valuable especially in Africa’s health care and pharmaceutical sectors. Sizeable investments have already been made in oil and gas, mining, banking, pharma, textiles and other sectors in African countries under the strategic initiative, “Focus Africa” by the Government of India launched in 2002.

Zhang Yongpeng, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of West Asian and African Studies noted that even though India posed a challenge to China’s strategy in Africa, for instance in bidding for commercial projects, the economic threats were not daunting for now.

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African nations are unwilling to choose between China and India because of the accruing benefits and investments from both nations. Also, the African governments are avoiding being dragged in conflicts, especially during the ongoing trade and diplomatic tensions between the US and China and the border tensions between India and China.

“India tends to have largely positive perceptions as a fellow Global South democracy. China can sometimes be more controversial, for example, due to the recent ill-treatment of Africans in Guangzhou,” stated Cobus van Staden, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

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India refuses to review RCEP decision over China’s border hostility – Reports

Last year, India backed out of the RCEP agreement citing its negative effects on “farmers, MSMEs and dairy sector”. “The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.

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India is firm on the decision to not become a member of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). The Modi government is reportedly “not reviewing” its decision on RCEP due to the presence of China as a member.

According to the sources, India has decided it won’t join any trade agreement including RCEP where China is a member as matters have turned worse for India, especially after the border stand-off with China.

Last year, India backed out of the RCEP agreement citing its negative effects on “farmers, MSMEs and dairy sector”. “The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.

It also does not address satisfactorily India’s outstanding issues and concerns. In such a situation, it is not possible for India to join the RCEP Agreement,” PM Modi had stated at RCEP summit in Bangkok. The summit included China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the 10-nation ASEAN grouping.

“There is no question to join the pact now that the prime minister has given a clarion call to a self-reliant or ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) India,” said an official who refused to be identified. The comments came after Thailand said all member countries have decided to sign the trade pact by the end of 2020 without India, and the deal may come into force by the middle of next year.

According to Chinese state mouthpiece, Global Times (GT), this is a method of venting of irrational emotions after a recent deadly border conflict in the Galwan Valley.

“India’s years of hesitation toward the RCEP are essentially due to the country’s weak manufacturing sector,” it said. “After the deadly border conflict in June, India’s diplomacy has entered an irrational state of anger.

It is expanding its emotional approach to many other aspects of relations. Using border tensions with China as an excuse for its latest RCEP rejection is just another example. If India continues this irrational approach, it would not only harm regional interests but would not benefit India’s own long-term interests,” it added.

It further criticised the Indian media for calling RCEP as “Chinese-dominated” and “Chinese-backed” trade deal.

Despite China’s belligerence, no other country has shown any hesitation for signing the RCEP agreement. “For countries such as Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand it will be difficult to have inner coherence between geopolitics and trade,” said Rajiv Bhatia, a veteran diplomat.

Vietnam, which is now the ASEAN chair has said that it will continue to urge India to join the RCEP “whenever it feels comfortable”.

Amid soaring tensions in the South China Sea when the Chinese ship attacked and sank a Vietnamese boat near the Paracel Islands, it is still going to go ahead with the RCEP deal. Similarly, Australia, which has blamed China for the origins of Covid-19 and its growing military aggression, also seems clear about joining the RCEP.

China’s advice to India is that while facing a “more powerful neighbour”, it is imperative for India to properly assess its situation and rationally reduce its rivalry toward China to develop favourable economic and diplomatic strategies, rather than “irrationally heating up nationalism and blaming China when it encounters unsatisfactory situations”.

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